General Public Founder Portia de Rossi On The Aesthetic Intention Behind Her Latest Artistic Collaboration

Portia de RossiPhoto Credit: Strati Hovartos / General Public

Portia de Rossi is making moves in the art world with General Public, her art publishing company known for curating contemporary art from a diverse group of professional artists internationally. Her latest venture: her first-ever collection from Art Patron, a new shared subsidiary, exclusively at modern furniture company CB2.

Born out of their joint vision of making fine art accessible for all, the Art Patron collection at CB2 brings 57 modern and archival pieces to the brand’s growing catalog of art offerings. Contemporary pieces push boundaries through a range of styles and mediums to showcase the breadth of the art world, while archival pieces include still lifes and portraiture in grand traditional style, all thoughtfully sourced from renowned museums and storied flea markets around the world.

Curated exclusively for CB2 by General Public founder and CEO Portia de Rossi and creative director Slater Herman, this new assortment features photography, reductive prints and Art Patron’s proprietary technology: The SynographTM—the only printing process on the market able to faithfully reproduce each artist’s unique brushstrokes. The result is a fully textured canvas with all the detail and nuance of the original
work of art.

As a part of this partnership, contemporary artists will receive a royalty from their print sales—an auspicious kickstarter in the customer’s journey to becoming a patron of the arts. Proceeds from the sale of archival pieces will be donated to the Rijksmuseum. The new catalog curates exclusive artworks into four groups—chromatic, monochromatic, warm and cool—making it turnkey for customers to experiment with art in their unique spaces, and is the first time that General Public has produced pieces by non-contemporary artists, using Synograph technology to preserve this historically significant art and make it available to a new audience.

Here, we sat down with de Rossi to talk about the collaboration, house flipping with partner Ellen DeGeneres, and why art — like beauty — is truly in the eye of the beholder.

Portia de RossiPhoto Credit: DFree/Shutterstock.comLet’s talk about art. It’s special and subjective, as we’ve discussed before when you launched your company, General Public.

It is very special. As you know, the reason that I wanted to have a business that actually introduced art to more people is because I find the gallery system to be so narrow and so exclusionary and in no way inclusive or friendly, so I really wanted to be able to link artists with patrons in a different way. In order to do that, we had to kind of figure out a way to attract really talented, educated artists to our program so they could feel like we’re offering a different art experience than just your traditional kind of flat, cliché print. So that kind of started us on the tech end of things and then you know, I think curation kind of followed that, so I just feel like it was definitely time to upgrade the print as we know it and make it something that was tactile and more authentic to the original work of art because there’s just so much information in the original brushwork and mark-making that isn’t captured in traditional printing.

Portia de RossiPhoto Credit: CB2

And now you have this collaboration with CB2. So how did this kind of come about and why is this the right fit for what you’re doing?

Portia: Honestly, I approached CB2 because I am just so impressed with how forward thinking their design is I love how their collections incorporate so many different design aesthetics like you can find Hollywood Regency, more traditional pieces, as well as mid century pieces and I love the quality of furniture that is being produced and just the breath of design. I just find it really exciting. I find it innovative. I find it fresh. So a collaboration with CB2 with some thing that I really wanted for general public and in order to do that I really wanted to differentiate our brand um and create Art Patron because I really wanted it to be artist-forward I wanted it to be contemporary, bold, fun, expressive. And I wanted the customer to actually think about how art speaks to them personally, how it is an expression of who they are as individuals and from there, get the furniture together. I wanted to kind of approach design and art in that way where if you have an A+ collection, you start with a piece of art and I am bringing to art patron, A+ artists and A+ art to CB2 and I really want people to think about the art as an expression and reflection of themselves and what they love rather than “Does it match my sofa?”

Portia de RossiPhoto Credit: CB2

Both art and your home say things about yourself. So even if you just had like an all white home and everything was just like completely monochromatic, that would say some thing about you as a person, right?

It does! It absolutely does and I think that while people think of certain things in their home as being direct expressions of what they like, I don’t necessarily think it extends to art all the time because I think people don’t trust themselves to know what is good and they also think that a piece of art should be kind of more kind of comforting to kind of settle into a room when really, for me, it’s the thing that always makes a room. It’s funny: I used to always tear sheets out, now it’s Pinterest and other things, out of interior design magazines and I realized after a while that it was because there was a sliver of a Basquiat like though the doorway that I could see on the hallway wall that I was actually attracted to. It wasn’t the piece of furniture or the room itself. So for me, I just think art is so important to self expression and to actually completing a room. So yeah partnering with CB2 is really pretty perfect for us because we like to take chances. We’re bold and innovative and so are they.

Portia de RossiPhoto Credit: CB2

It’s so interesting hearing what is good art. Obviously you know what good art is but a lot of people really don’t. However, art is so subjective, right? It’s really all about what you consider to be something that you gravitate toward and I guess it’s the same thing with homes. So for you personally, what do you gravitate toward currently both in the home space and in the art space?

I have to say I’m all over the place because, as you know, Ellen and I move constantly. We’re rather famous for it now because we really really enjoy different architectural aesthetics and design aesthetics so art kind of follows suit in a way. But there are certain pieces that follow us around everywhere we go. I can’t even say there’s anything that links them to each other as like “Oh, this is what we like,” but it’s always, always the way art makes me feel or us feel. It always comes down to that. Like, is there a feeling that this piece evokes from us when we walk by it, glance at it, or really study it? So they’re kind of the pieces that we really tend to hang onto that are really important to us. And you know, it can be emerging artists, anonymous artists with pieces of art that haven’t been credited to anybody all the way up to Picasso you know? It’s just does this evoke something and do I love living with it?

How did you kind of craft and select the pieces for this collection? Where did that come from as a motivation?

I get excited about individual artists, and I present artists that are bold and challenging and invigorating to folks that I think will see what I see in it. So, in particular, I think this collection actually started for me, with the two female Italian photographers, Albertini and Seconi, because their imagery was so bold and so evocative that I thought hm if anyone’s gonna go for this, it’s CB2. That’s kind of where I started. Anyone could kind of look at these images and uh and think about offering them, it would be CB2 because they are incredibly um bold and they’re very um fine art, they’re not decor. They’re challenging. So I kind of started with photography and when I was thinking about, you know, these beautiful archival works that Ellen and I have been collecting for you know, the last 15 years, I thought it would be lovely to present this idea of preservation and just kind of observing past, great, portrait painters, and so we kind of put together this collection of works that we have found at flea markets, and other pieces.  We worked with the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam to acquire and publish and we kind of put this collection together that would be great as a salon wall which is how we like to show that kind of work in our home so you know, for me, that’s kind of a stand out because we haven’t seen that before and it hasn’t been offered before. So, it’s kind of great to kind of revive these kind of, mid-19 century portrait paintings and kind of refresh them because they’re disappearing. Every market’s been picked over for a hundred years, finding these beautiful paintings. I find them just lovely. Each one kind of has the story of who the artist was, who the sitter is, why the portrait was painted.  A lot of them are animals as well and I just find it very personal and very lovely so that’s very new for us, too.

Portia de RossiPhoto Credit: CB2

Because you have so many places that you’ve moved do you kind of get to curate all over again, that feel with the furniture and then also with the art of kind of like a different Love for a different place because you have so many?

It’s great because we take our art everywhere we go and all of a sudden we’ll look at a Joe Bradley space and go “Oh my god, I feel like I’ve never seen it before,” and we’ve lived in different spaces in the past 5, 10 years, it’s kind of amazing what light and space can do to art. It’s pretty interesting. And color obviously. So yeah, it’s an interesting experiment to move as much as we do. It’s not for the faint of heart I’ll tell you that. For Ellen and myself, it really kind of scratches the itch because we just love love love design and architecture and art.

Given that this collection, I’m sure, is going to be very successful, have you thought about doing it a second time? Is that on the table?

I would love to keep working with CB2. I think, you know, they have been really, really great partners for us. We really wanted to be able to offer a different kind of contemporary aesthetics as well as playing around with these old, crusty, pieces and they’re really on board with it. We just presented things that we loved and we had really exciting big ideas and they kind of went for it so yes, I would love to continue working with them and creating, you know, amazing, curated collections and hopefully be able to kind of establish CB2 as the place to go for art and you know, I love also, that we have such a breath of offerings from like classical still life’s all the way to you know, geometric, contemporary paintings. It would be lovely to actually put a catalog of works together for CB2 that actually does appeal to folks knowing that this collection has been carefully curated. That the artists are vetted, that it’s not just the one painting that you see that’s good, I t’s a breath of work, that the artists have solid practice so it’s kind of like I’m hoping that Art Patron can be a place where people feel good about contributing to the career of an artist and also just trust that we’re bringing folks really well vetted, really good artists and works of art.

Portia de RossiPhoto Credit: CB2

Which artist are you currently obsessed with and why?

I love Mike Kelly. I mean, I can’t even think about his work and not cry: it’s beyond. So, I just – I don’t know it’s hard for me to choose anybody. I will say of our artists, Mark Russell Jones, creates these beautiful atmospheric landscapes. His use of paint is just exceptional! The way that he uses paint and colors is like nobody I’ve ever worked with so I’m very excited about him and there’s several of his pieces in the CB2 collection.

My last question is, art to you is ____.

Expression. To be able to express your self and what you love is how you connect with other people, so maybe art is connection.

Portia de RossiPhoto Credit: CB2