As evidenced by her art-filled retreat in the Hollywood Hills, Kelsey Lee Offield’s vast collection is equal parts personal and playful
Gallerist, collector and artist Kelsey Lee Offield isn’t afraid to suffer for her art. Never mind that she injured herself while moving an Eckart Hahn sculpture in her living room—in her words, a “too-Marie-Antoinette-not-to-get” creation comprising a wood stump and an ax. “The ax slipped, so I had to call my doctor and say, ‘I cut my arm with a rusty ax from Germany…do I need a tetanus shot?’ ” she recalls with pride. Even more telling is the fact that she knowingly risks life and limb on a nightly basis, sleeping beneath an approximately 100-pound Jonathan Yeo painting (a heart-shaped statement featuring an X-rated collage) in earthquake country. “If I die because a pornographic heart crushed my skull—well, it’s worth it,” she says. “That is a good story.”
This fierce appreciation for craft runs in her blood: Offield, 32, grew up surrounded by plein air paintings amassed by her parents—she spent summers in Harbor Springs, MI, with her grandmother, a potter, and grandfather, a needlepoint artist (she is part of the Wrigley-Offield clan, known for the Chicago baseball stadium and the popular gum brand, as well as for their philanthropy and cultural patronage). Raised on Catalina Island and in Laguna Beach, she majored in art history at the University of Puget Sound and received her BFA at Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts, later pursuing her master’s from the Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London. She returned to L.A. two-and-a-half years ago to open contemporary gallery Gusford (named for her English bulldog), which will inaugurate a new 6,000-square-foot space on La Brea south of Melrose Avenue this summer.
A trained sculptor, painter, photographer, welder and glassblower, Offield put her own practice on hold to focus on her artist roster, which includes emerging talents such as Singaporean artist Genevieve Chua, Moroccan lensman Hassan Hajjaj and local painter Michael Brunswick. They’re all on display in her home, a veritable temple to her holdings, with pieces by Walead Beshty, Christian Boltanski, Tara Donovan, Polly Morgan and her boyfriend, Cole Sternberg, also on view.
Offield shares her passion for treasure hunting as a member of MOCA’s Director’s Council, a panel of young collectors founded by Director Philippe Vergne and Joshua Roth who work with the museum’s curators and vote on an annual acquisition for the permanent collection. “I have strong opinions. At our last meeting I was like”—she pauses to adopt a conspiratorial whisper, as if talking to fellow committee members about the contenders under consideration—“don’t be fooled by the shiny object!”
It’s this desire to look past the façade to a deeper meaning that continually drives her. “I don’t ever want things that are only pretty and make me happy,” she says. “I look for things that engage and challenge me—that remind me of the broader world we live in.”
By Melissa Goldstein.
Photographed by Jessica Sample.