Collecting stories: Vanessa Arelle

The former head of cultural affairs for Mexico in the UK on how her Latin American heritage has influenced the esoteric collection which fills her central London home

Vanessa Arelle, entrepreneur, contributing editor to Vogue Mexico and Vogue Latin America, and previously head of cultural affairs for Mexico in the UK between 2011 and 2015, lives in Belgravia in London.

‘There is a lot of South American and Latin American work because I’m Mexican,’ she says of her diverse collection, which ranges from contemporary art to old religious paintings, crystals, ceramics, and even battered baseballs and footballs. ‘So, there is a little bit of a logic, but it’s not curated.

‘My collecting is completely instinctive,’ she continues. ‘Sometimes it’s visual — you see something and you just like it. Or you might meet the person that’s created it and you think the person is fascinating, so you want to see the work.’

The result is an eclectic, vibrant and colourful display of objects that also includes ex-votos — ‘Paintings done to say thank you to God or to the Virgin Mary,’ she explains. ‘People would go to artists to have them made. So there is one where somebody is saying, “Thank you so much for saving me as I was falling from the second floor, I had a vision of you and I am now alive, and I only broke two legs and five ribs,” or something like that. I love those stories.’

‘When you interact with artists you get a sneak peak into their world, and that makes the work make a lot more sense’

The collection begins at the entrance to the building, where the black and white Op art of British-born Turkish Cypriot artist, Mustafa Hulusi, adorns the hallway. Hulusi’s hybrid identity is reflected in his adoption of a plurality of artistic styles — an intense, photorealistic painting of a ripe apple on a tree, also by Hulusi, resides elsewhere in the house.

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The densely covered walls reflect Arelle’s passion for collecting, as well as the pleasure she takes in being on the art world’s front line. ‘When you interact with artists you get a sneak peak into their world, and that makes the work make a lot more sense,’ she explains.

‘Every single object in this house has a story, and that’s what makes it very special.’