The Art of Being Peter Som
Part of what I do and what I teach my clients every day is to live with things that they love and connect with. Knowledge is power, and knowing thyself is paramount when collecting art and design. And judging by his apartment and art collection, Peter Som seems to never have questioned who he is or how to uncompromisingly reflect his tastes and feelings to the outer world.
A native San Franciscan and the son of two architects, Som has created an extraordinarily successful career for himself as the co-owner and designer of his eponymous fashion company: Peter Som. While Som grew up surrounded by art and architecture, his knowledge of art deepened when he graduated with a degree in Art History from Connecticut College. His fashion sensibility was honed at Parsons, he then opened his company in 1999 and also served as the creative director of Bill Blass and Tommy Hilfiger.
It is Som's home itself that most transparently tells his story. He's a man who loves subtleties with a punch: like pairing neutral-colored mid-century modern furniture pieces with a large green canvas by Swedish painter Mia Enell, or with the super cool works by Ajit Chauhan who paints over vintage record albums and then scrapes away the paint to reveal edgy portraits. And there is the series of imperfect yet compelling cutouts by Mexican artist Jose Davila - who called them "Buildings You Have to See Before You Die" - which take over one of the living room’s walls. It keeps the eye engaged and wandering from one photograph to another, identifying the landmarks that have been eliminated from the image.
Nothing is really too literal or in-your-face, much like Som’s designs, whose beautiful pieces always have a mix of romanticism and mystery. And nothing is really out of place, like the two small canvases resting on the mantel that Peter got last summer: one a landscape that he found in the Hamptons by artist Walter Mas, the other a small studio “mudhead” (the method of painting the color and shape of light with disregard for detail and features) of a woman wearing a hat by the beach and perhaps created by a student somewhere around Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Lisa Ruyter, Jonathan Borofsky and Kojo Griffin are also in Peter’s collection, among many others.
Reluctant to leave such a peaceful space, amazing host and well-curated group of art and design pieces, I knew that my time was up but not without asking Peter who his dream collaboration artist would be. The answer without hesitation is Kehinde Wiley whose narrative, flowers, themes and color compositions are so fantastic and engaging. I’m somehow surprised that the boldness of Wiley’s works is what captures the eye of the more subdued Som, but upon second thought, I realize that there’s nothing surprising here: Peter has the uncanny ability to turn intense and bold visual information into gorgeous feminine clothes that can drape sensuously around the body of the boldest woman, without ever taking the power away from her.