Mati Russo's art installation at Sothby's, photo copyrighted to Brenda Haroutunian


Sotheby’s installation of Mati Russo’s emotive, mixed-media art echoes the city’s commitment to creativity as an ongoing community venture that is continually growing in unexpected directions.
Mati Russo's art installation at Sothby's, photo copyrighted by Brenda Haroutunian
“World’s Apart,” and “Forgive Quickly,” by Mati Russo, Sotheby’s Pasadena

I’m a big fan of Mati Russo.  For starters, I’m impressed by her ability to touch on the suffering of the human condition with art that evokes constructive contemplation, rather than fear, or other negative alternatives.  The artist’s technique for expressing gratitude with multi-media painting composed of disposed items that have lost their first shine strikes me as especially thoughtful.  Finally, I love her color and charisma.  So, when I heard that Sotheby’s had installed her mixed-media painting at their new office here in Pasadena, I was eager to see her work up close.

"Worlds Apart," Mati Russo Art, Sotheby's Pasadena. This photograph is copyrighted to Brenda Haroutunian
“Worlds Apart,” by Mati Russo, Sotheby’s Pasadena

I was also curious about Sotheby’s response to the artist, and her creativity.  Jeff Maynard, the Vice President, and Brokerage Manager, of the Pasadena office, was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.  When I asked him what he most liked about Russo’s brand of creativity, he said that he was impressed by the work that he found on her website, and in her studio. Maynard added that part of the design aspect of our new Pasadena real estate office was to create a museum-like space to highlight local artist and their works.  When he shared his findings with Bradley Cooper,  Senior Vice President of Marketing, enthusiasm, and support for an installation of Russo’s art at the Pasadena office solidified.

"Tantric Garden" by artist Mati Russo. Photograph copyrighted to Brenda Haroutunian
“Tantric Garden,” by Mati Russo, Sotheby’s Pasadena

Russo, in turn, said that she was overjoyed when Maynard first asked to show one of her pieces, later deciding to furnish the entire office with her art.  She’s overjoyed that her art would be seen by new audiences.   Russo was pleased with the idea of sharing her art with clients searching for new houses and resonant art that would transform them into homes.

The installation was composed solely of abstract and decorative works. Russo said that Sotheby’s wanted to add color and beauty to their office while avoiding subjects that had the potential to evoke an unwelcome response.  She added; there are no political pieces reminiscent of artists such as Basquiat.  Those are displayed elsewhere and in my home.

Mati Russo art, Sotheby's Pasadena. Photograph copyrighted to Brenda Haroutunian
“Amaretto,” by Mati Russo, Sotheby’s Pasadena

If Sotheby’s was careful to select a collection that wasn’t incendiary, they have nevertheless showcased art meant to evoke an emotional response.   After September 11, 2001, the artist shifted direction portraying subject matter for the purpose of stimulating thought and reflection, rather than appealing solely to the senses.   Maynard appreciates the thoughtfulness in Russo’s process.  He said; For me, the beauty in Mati’s work is the thought process she brings to it. Psychological states are often an important subject in her art.  Paintings like Forgive Quickly and Worlds Apart speak to human vulnerability, along with joy, gratitude, and compassion.  If Sotheby’s purpose was to fill its office with beautiful art, it has also included work that urges it’s audience to think and respond.

Mati Russo's art at Sotheby's Pasadena. Photograph copyrighted to Brenda Haroutunian
“Laguna Beach,” by Mati Russo, at Sotheby’s Pasadena

On a whim, I asked Maynard what he would ask the artist to make if he could commission her to create a monument to donate to the city.  Although he was reluctant to dictate a creative direction for a hypothetical project, he nevertheless leaned towards something that emphasized the city’s impressive history.  Maynard’s answer is appropriate.  Russo’s savvy installation of serious and vibrant mixed-media painting reflects the city’s  history of engagement and innovation with the arts and literature.

So, I asked myself instead what I would ask the artist to make if I had such an opportunity.  Eventually, I decided on a series of paintings in industrial frames,  placed at some of the city’s driest and dustiest locations.  Russo’s evocative, colorful compositions would be welcome, for example, along Eaton Canyon’s trails during the hot summer months.

Mati Russo galleries and art. Photograph copyrighted to Brenda Haroutunian
“Purple Haze,” by Mati Russo, Sotheby’s Pasadena

The city’s choice museums, educational opportunities aimed at every age group and skill-set, along with events such as Artnight and One City, One Story,  present gratifying opportunities for exploration and growth. Sotheby’s has nodded to Pasadena’s traditions with an artist who is innovative and perpetually growing in exciting new directions

Of course, Sotheby’s has been in the news lately.  Everyone seems to be chattering about recent shakeups. There is general agreement that these are uncertain times for Sotheby’s.  Nevertheless, the installation in the local office acknowledged that this diverse community takes art seriously.  It’s yet another opportunity to view choice art, not in a museum or a gallery, but rather a savvy business space that has integrated the artist’s work with gallery-like flair.

Mati Russo Art, pictured copyrighted to Brenda Haroutnian
closeup of “Zap,” Mati Russo, Sotheby’s Pasadena

The city’s creative enterprises still surprise me nearly twenty years after settling in this small town.  So, I’d like to present opinion pieces about this local culture, while continuing my research on the contemporary artist in the coming months.  The city of Pasadena, with its culture of urging the community to engage with the world around it, is endlessly unique and refreshing.   I’m going to grab my camera and find secret pockets of creativity, explore what the community is interested in thinking about and making.


    1. You’re very welcome. It’s always a pleasure to collaborate with you Mati. Thank you for your ongoing support for my project.

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