DEVELOPER HAS TURNED A PASSION FOR ART INTO A GROUNDBREAKING IDEA FOR BESPOKE HOMES
By Suzanne Gannon
Robbie Antonio is a man with many ambitions. Collecting modern and contemporary art by the world’s most elite names – Warhol, Basquiat, Koons, de Kooning – is one. Erecting residences and skyscrapers with brands such as Versace, Armani, Forbes, Trump and Missoni is another.
A third, his latest and the one that combines these two passions, is Revolution Precrafted Properties, bespoke prefabricated homes intended to be collectible. Designed by architects and artists such as Daniel Libeskind, Zaha Hadid, David Salle and Lenny Kravitz’s Kravitz Design, they can be made to order and shipped almost anywhere in the world. The average house price: about $300,000, with an average size of 1,000 square feet. “I want the homes to be perceived as art pieces,” Antonio recently told Forbes Asia.
It’s these headline-making accomplishments that earlier this year landed Antonio, 39, on Artnet’s list of “12 Young Art Collectors to Watch in 2016.” “These rising stars are already having a good year,” the newswire stated, “… making names for themselves in the wild and ever-changing world of art.”
Antonio, founder and president of New York-based Antonio Development who has homes in New York and Manila, began collecting art only a decade ago yet already has amassed one of the largest collections of international art in Asia.
“I feel art, architecture and design are intertwined,” says the second-generation real-estate developer from the Philippines who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics from Northwestern University and obtained his master’s degree in business administration from Stanford University.
“I am lucky,” he says, “to have grown up in a visually stimulating environment.”
We spoke to Antonio about his art, his collecting style, his interest in architecture, and how they entwine.
“At a bare minimum, [a piece] must intrinsically hold up its value,” Antonio says. “But visually, I need to be floored and wowed — and able to afford it. I would say I regularly trade out 15 to 20 percent of my acquisitions for a better piece by the same artist. When I find things that meet these requirements, these are the times I seize the opportunity.
“And I do my homework. I have taken every opportunity of free time to visit museums and galleries. I study at least five art websites every day and a dozen architecture and design sites. And I look at data points and make historical comparisons. I investigate who backs solo shows and who collects, and I ask questions of both dealers and collectors. I find out what’s undervalued or not priced correctly. Essentially, I practice caveat emptor.”
ART COLLECTING GOAL
“Though I used to collect pieces by emerging artists, in the past several years my style has transitioned toward more established artists, the true, really established artists. If he were still alive,” Antonio says, “I’d love to have a conversation with Van Gogh.”
“Revolution Precrafted Properties, my latest venture, will bring the visual arts – and stylized, ‘collectible,’ prefabricated architecture – to regions of the world that for the most part have never been exposed to international culture of this kind. No one’s doing something this design oriented to this magnitude. It’s going to democratize architectural design — change the landscape of designer living.”
Throughout his career, Antonio has worked with 12 Pritzker Prize-winning architects, including the late Zaha Hadid, I.M. Pei, Rem Koolhaas, Tadao Ando, and Richard Meier. “Revolution Precrafted is tapping into a circle of the world’s best architectural talent to design signature residential concepts in economically challenged places where designer homes will be affordable, starting from $150,000.”
Robbie Antonio doesn’t follow the trends of what’s hot right now, says Leon Benrimon, director of modern and contemporary art for the New York office of Heritage Auctions. “He’s in it for the long term. He’s heavily invested in real estate, he cares about art and aesthetics, he looks at art objectively.”
What’s most impressive is how quickly and effectively Antonio as a Filipino has enmeshed himself in the art world, and particularly in the art of the Western world. Typically, outside of the West, there’s pushback among collectors of art from cultures other than their own. “Robbie’s significant impact,” Benrimon says, “is that he will be the one who brought Western art to the Philippines.”
SUZANNE GANNON is a New York writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Town & Country and Art + Auction.