The centerpiece of a recent Michel Majerus survey at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Miami was a vast painting featuring an array of overlaid imagery: Woody from the animated movie Toy Story, graphic design from a box of ice cream sandwiches, and more. The lender of this 23-foot-long work was not a museum but the collector Mato Perić, who has obtained a reputation for buying what he calls “popular conceptual art” by the likes of Alex Da Corte, Cosima von Bonin, Heji Shin, Alvaro Barrington, Christopher Williams, Jacqueline Humphries, and others. ARTnews spoke with Perić to hear more about his collection.
ARTnews: Most collectors keep their work private, but art you own has been appearing in public venues a lot lately. What’s it like to see your collection out in the world?
Mato Perić: It’s very rewarding, and the collection has grown quite substantially. It’s something that makes us very proud. Seeing that these institutions are asking for these works validates what we’ve been doing.
ARTnews: Did you ever have plans to start your own private museum for your collection? Showing works like the Majerus painting you own at home must be a challenge.
Perić: We looked at various different options in New York, because we felt it’s something that the public should see. We didn’t want it to hang in a regular white cube, or anywhere expected. We just couldn’t find the place [to do it]. When the ICA called us and asked for it, that was a nice coincidence.
ARTnews: You don’t seem afraid of buying challenging works. What draws you to conceptual art? Do you have a specific kind you’re looking for?
Perić: I think what’s important to understand is that conceptual art alone is not what attracts us. There’s what we call a popular conceptual angle to the collection, because most of the time conceptual art is really not accessible to those [who] don’t have an art history degree or are not in the inner circle of the art world. Majerus is a great example, but so is Cory Arcangel. The work is conceptual, but then the subject matter of Super Mario Bros. is known to billions of people. That’s something that excites us.
ARTnews: One way you brought that popular conceptual art to the public is by placing it not in a private museum but in the storefront of Jodamo, a menswear store that was active on the Lower East Side of New York before closing this year. How did that come together?
Perić: We never thought about running a regular gallery. That was never the ethos of the collection. We always wanted to have this surprise element. We knew about this window, and Matt [Moravec] and Eleonore [Hugendubel, the directors of the Perić Collection] managed to convince the owner to give us one of them. There are so many great artworks in the collection that we knew would be activated by this velvet background. When you look at a Christopher Williams, you’ve seen it in a gallery, right? But if you walk by and suddenly see it in this velvet mirror, with old-school fashion brands and stickers on the window, that’s something that really is unexpected. That’s what we wanted to achieve.
ARTnews: Within New York, your collection is known for hosting the Seaport Talks, a series moderated by critic Dean Kissick that has featured artists like Aria Dean and Jamian Juliano-Villani as guests. What made you want to start that?
Perić: Matt, Eleonore, and I all felt like, during the last years, especially through Covid, there were a number of artists talks and panels, but that it always felt like there was some sort of agenda to them. Maybe it was linked to an exhibition, maybe there was even a commercial angle—it all felt a little bit too transactional, like there was a lack of authenticity. We said, “Let’s just start a forum, invite opinionated speakers, and then tell them to talk about whatever they want. It’s not being recorded. You can say whatever you want without regretting it later.”
ARTnews: You’ve supported alternative spaces like Artists Space in New York, the Chisenhale Gallery in London, and the Center for Contemporary Arts in Berlin. What is the importance of patronizing these institutions for you?
Perić: What always matters to me, in business and in art, is the impact. What’s the outcome going to be? I’m on the board of CCA, and we’re always having talks about how Fabian [Schöneich], the director and founder, can learn from the tech and startup system. I think it’s also important to give artists space to try something new. I feel that galleries are increasingly not giving artists room. It’s a pity. I think there needs to be something that allows artists to experiment and do different things.