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A slept-in bed flanked by glowing table lamps. It’s a simple composition hinting at bigger story, perhaps even a romance. This was the first photograph collectors Kristen and Joe Cole fell in love with, enough to purchase it during a trip to Florence. Its author, Nan Goldin, was their introduction to collecting art. An auspicious start for any young couple.

Now collecting is synonymous with the Cole’s work and play. Kristen’s role as the President and Chief Creative Officer of Forty Five Ten allows her to commission artists to contribute to the brand’s ever-changing facade, especially now that they have opened a second flagship in New York at Hudson Yards. It joins a portfolio of stores with a Dallas flagship location and boutiques in Aspen, Miami and Napa. And for Joe—a hospitality developer and creative director for Headington Companies (which owns Forty Five Ten)—meeting new artists and dealers folds neatly into the day-to-day of discovery and research.

Here, the two Texas transplants bring us up to speed on their photography-fueled trajectory.


Photograph by Casey Kelbaugh

Photograph by Casey Kelbaugh


After you purchased that first Nan Goldin, where did the momentum move?

Joe: Even before we met, Kristen and I were always interested in the arts and at looking closer. When we acquired that first piece, I think it was the fulfillment of something we’d both been seeking. Photography was where we started for multiple reasons, not least because it was accessible to us early on in our lives, when price point was key.  We purchased works by photographers like Slim Aarons, Stephen Shore, and Vivian Maier. And then over the years, as we had the ability to invest more and become more familiar with other artists, we branched into painting and sculpture, the now dominating mediums in our collection.

Kristen: Now Joe is actually interested in works that embrace the digital realm as well, even if it is in a lo-fi way. Luke Murphy’s LED sculptures have really changed the game for us. It’s perhaps the most analogue that a digital work could be, but it’s opened the door to what else we might like to collect.

Are there themes you are chasing when thinking about the collection?

Kristen: We collect largely by instinct. We don’t have a theme but rather choose things based on our own connection to artists or the work itself. As we’ve become friends with artists, we’ve worked with them on commissions, a process that allows you to go deeper into their worlds.

Joe: Exactly. I think recently we’ve also become more self-aware of trending towards female artists. It wasn’t a conscious move at first, but something we did start to focus on. Artists like Sarah Braman, Sarah Cain, Sam Moyer, Katherine Bradford, Margaux Ogden, Katherine Bernhardt.

Who is on your radar right now?

Joe: We don’t have targets. We definitely approach collecting as an ongoing discussion. Sometimes there’s an amazing work out there that is just cost prohibitive for us, or not available for whatever reason. That being said I think we were both blown away by Kevin Beasley at the Whitney Museum. We would love to live alongside one of his resin fabric works.

Kristen: We also recently bought a piece by Katie Stout and large reflective work by Davina Semo. Both of those artists have been on our minds for a while.

How do you think living with art has changed your life?

Kristen: In Texas, we live in a nineties modernist architectural home that lends itself well to art installation. We are definitely drawn to paintings and sculptures that add a bit of the surreal to our daily lives. I am thinking right now about Tony Matelli, who Joe is currently working with on an exhibition for The Joule Hotel during the Dallas Art Fair. Tony’s work for me is a prime example of something that activates and transforms a space.

Where do you find the work usually?

Joe: I try to go to as many shows and fairs as possible. Of course, we have favorite galleries or people we’ve worked with often over the years, but I try to stay open to discoveries. I think part of the joy of collecting is this feeling of expansion.