THE COLLECTOR: Kim Coles

Growing up in New York in the era of Andy Warhol and Keith Herring, 'Living Single' actress Kim Coles has always held an appreciation for art.  And it was while cutting her teeth on the stand up circuit as a young comedian in Los Angeles that she became a collector.

It is hard to remember the era when airline tickets where either sent by mail or picked up at their offices. Yet it was in the hustle of tracking down flights and travel agents, before traveling to perform three shows a day for five to eight days at a time that Coles was first struck by the desire to own an art piece.  Every week as she rushed to the ticket office, she would pass by a pop art portrait of Lucille Ball, until one day she could not resist stepping into the gallery.  Within a short while, she was so connected to the piece that the gallery owner set her up with a payment plan and within five months, Coles owned her first major piece. “I felt like she was creating a space for me to dream.”

The investment was truly a personal one, as Lucille Ball represented many of the goals behind Coles’ journey as a woman in comedy. Now her collection includes many pieces by emerging artists she has discovered attending events like Downtown Art Walk in Los Angeles, often with former co-star Erika Alexander.  “I am someone who believes that art is really everywhere.”

At the heart of her collection is another piece that connects with her professional aspirations. After attending an event at the Paley Center for Media in Los Angeles honoring women in comedy, Coles was taken by the images of actresses including Whoopi Goldberg and others created by caricature artist Al Hirschfeld that aligned the hallway.  Coles was inspired by the personal meaning of being able to stand in the company of the great women whose careers she hoped to emulate. 

Just beginning her run on 'Living Single', she reached out to Hirschfeld’s management, only to be told that he chooses which celebrity’s he depicts.  Within a short time, she received a call that the artist, would love to host her for a sitting and do her portrait. Coles flew out to New York to the Hirschfeld home, where she not only had the opportunity to engage the artist, but also to see the timeline of works. A few months later, her Hirschfeld arrived in the mail with a note from his assistant citing that it was some of the most Ninas he had ever done. Hirschfeld etched his daughter’s name into most of his works. 

It remains one her most prized pieces, given that Hirschfeld rendered iconic depictions of celebrities ranging from Eartha Kitt, Barbra Streisand to John Leguizamo and Wynton Marsalis.