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Interview with Richard W. Ivey

The collection of Canadian art displayed throughout the Ivey Business School is being built by an Art Committee consisting of Richard W. Ivey, HBA '72, LLD ’13, and Siamak Hariri, the building’s architect. All works are being purchased for the School by Richard W. Ivey, Richard M. Ivey, HBA '47, LLD ’79, and Rosamond A. Ivey, HBA '82.

In order to create a narrative for the collection, Richard W. Ivey answered a number of questions that have been prompted by students.

Questions from the Students

Why do you think adding such a diverse collection of art to the building is important and how do you hope the art will impact the students?

In terms of the physicality of the Ivey Building, a beautiful building demands that it be finished with great furniture and great art, particularly when there are so many huge empty walls screaming out for colour.

As for how such a diverse collection benefits the students at the Business School specifically, art can inspire creativity, curiosity and perhaps awe in those people that take the time to contemplate and enjoy it. Business thrives on curiosity and creativity so its important for the opportunity to be provided.

Is there an overriding theme to the collection? Anything that ties the pieces together?

A number of works in the collection appeal specifically to my idea of the intersection of art and a business school – the Jamelie Hassan, for example, is obviously about money and art. Her piece presents a true-to-form reproduction of a Canadian twenty-dollar bill marked by a quote that states “could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?” adjacent to an example of aboriginal sculpture. The Dorian FitzGerald painting in the Brock Pavilion’s dining room is also a good example of the confluence of business and art. FitzGerald strictly paints images of great wealth, in this case one of the grandest gardens in the U.K.

Additionally, each artist represented in the collection is a Canadian; this insistence on Canadian talent is present throughout my personal collecting practice as a whole.

What were you drawn to when it came to choosing each piece?

Thematically, I kept in mind that the predominate population of the building is young men and women in their twenties and early thirties so I leaned towards emerging and early career artists. Consideration was also given to seeking both male and female artists and artists from a number of different geographical regions in Canada. To me, the Jason McLeans speak of a younger way of thinking of art. His drawings are almost cartoonish and somewhat like the consciousness of the youthfulness of the people in the building.

In many ways you could say the Bierk’s are the most obvious example of the quest for diversity and were meant to represent the student population. The four individuals depicted are united in their friendship with the artist and, in a lovely coincidence, one is the daughter of a friend of fifty years who I know well.  

Why a certain piece for a particular space?

The initial driver for providing great art to the new Ivey Building was scale. The walls are enormous so I realized I would need large works of art. I’ve never had the opportunity to buy big works of art before so that presented a lovely challenge. I walked around Toronto for a year with the dimensions of walls in my pocket looking for works that would fit and that I loved. There is nothing in the building I would not have purchased for my own home if I had the walls.

While searching for art for the building, I also realized that this was the first time in my life I could, or perhaps should, commission a couple of works specifically for the space. That was a brand new experience for me which I was ultimately very satisfied with. The two commissioned works found in the building are the Ryan Sluggett in the Harry Rosen Lounge beside the Grand Hall and the Dorian FitzGerald in the Brock Pavilion.  

In terms of display, many people think I am crazy to not have done something to protect the artwork, because it is valuable and students can be careless. I decided to trust the students and so far I feel good about that.

Are there any interesting stories involving how you purchased any particular piece?

The decision to purchase the Ed Burtynsky photograph was made by both my father and me following individual visits to his exhibition called Water when it was in Toronto. Afterwards my dad called me and said that he would like to buy a piece for Ivey. When I asked which one he replied it was Greenhouses, Almira Peninsula, Spain and I said perfect because that was my favourite as well. Both my father and I view the inclusion of a Burtynsky in the school’s collection as important because, through his work, he is documenting how humans are negatively impacting our earth.

For the Dorian FitzGerald, I had a nice long visit to his very cool live and work space just east of the Don Valley Parkway in Toronto. What is amazing about his work is there isn’t one brush stroke in that painting. He creates little cups out of grout and he pours the paint into each one of the “cups.” He has also engineered a machine that allows him to swing out over the painting when it is lying on the ground in order to execute this process.

Halfway though Ryan Sluggest’s commission for Apples and Oranges (Working Title), my wife and I visited his studio in a very poor but arty part of Los Angeles called Inglewood. He had a fabulous studio in a cluster of art studios. He was a very thoughtful young man who explained his approach very clearly yet the three canvases that make up the present work were skewed all over his space and walls. This crazy process resulted in a finished product that ultimately blew us away.

Another interesting note is that subsequent to our purchase of BGL’s Vieux soleil, it was announced that the collective was chosen to represent Canada in Venice for the 2015 Biennale, which is a huge honour.

About Richard W. Ivey: “I’ve been passionately collecting contemporary Canadian art for the past 20 years. The walls of my house, my office and my cottage are full so I am always looking for opportunities to continue to satisfy my passion. Charitable institutions that I am associated with invariably have walls and no budgets for art, so I have turned my attention to them.”