Smitten with a Warhol silk screen in 1965, Sandra Krakoff began filling her home with art.
Standing in her Palm Beach condominium, with its elegant high ceilings and abundance of natural light, Sandra Krakoff feels sheer pleasure amid memories of a life well lived. “I love to be around beautiful things,” she says of the art and decor she has gathered over the years.
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Krakoff has always had a penchant for art. As a high school student, she attended a special Saturday-morning program at the Carnegie Museum of Art to immerse herself in it. “Even back then, I loved being in museums and learning about art,” she says.
With her late husband, Robert, she started gathering pieces in the Sixties in an unconventional way. The couple, who lived in Cincinnati at the time, would rent works of art through a 25-cents-a-week program run by the Cincinnati Plan for Art, which was part of the local library. In 1965, the couple’s hobby evolved into a serious endeavor. Having moved to Westport, Connecticut, Krakoff encountered well-known dealer Leo Castelli during an outing with a collector friend in New York. “I didn’t know who [Castelli] was, but we went to his gallery after lunch,” she recalls. It was a silk screen by Warhol, Puppies, that caught her eye.
After acquiring the Warhol, the couple began to fill their home with contemporary pieces from artists like Larry Rivers, Donald Sultan, and David Hockney. “We entertained a lot for charity, including the Jewish Women’s Foundation,” says Krakoff. “Our [art] became the focus of our home.”
Photography by Jerry Rabinowitz
The couple landed in Palm Beach in 2001, purchasing a home on Emerald Lane. Robert passed away a few years later, and Krakoff eventually moved into her current condominium, gutting it in order to create a clean, contemporary space that would serve as a backdrop for her art, as well as her mid-century French and American furniture.
Entering the elegant living room, on one wall of the open space is Donald Sultan’s abstract Black Roses (1989), and in the center of the room is one of Krakoff’s many beloved Hockneys—a piece from the artist’s famous Swimming Pool series. “I fell in love with the color and brightness of this painting,” she says. “I think it’s one of his best works.” Across the room is a piece that satisfies her erudition: an acrylic, gold leaf, and wood work by Japanese artist Takashi Taruya depicting traditional Japanese spiritual creatures mixed with modern icons of commerce and industry.
Also in the large living area are three life-size sheep sculptures, Les Moutons, created in the 1960s by French artists Claude and François- Xavier Lalanne. “My sheep promote calmness as they greet people, and they have a quality of natural alertness about them,” she says.
The kitchen sets the stage for Krakoff’s wanderlust and philanthropy work. A collection of colorful, hand-beaded animals are mementos from a trip to South Africa last summer. Women from the Ndebele of the Northern Province support their families by making these works, and Krakoff—who is involved with organizations including the Breast Cancer Research Foundation in New York, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Palm Beach, and the Morse-Life Foundation in Palm Beach—wanted to support their efforts.
Her affection for dogs is evident in the library, where a pair of Jeff Koons’s vivid, ceramic Balloon Dogs mingle with the artist’s white Flower Puppy (1998). An abstract painting by German artist Friedel Dzubas, Azure (1962), adds soothing tones to the serene space. In the corner, a galvanized steel mesh female figure, Mademoiselle (2000), by Canadian sculptor Sophie DeFrancesca, was picked up at a local crafts show. Krakoff likes to think of it as representing Marilyn Monroe. “[Marilyn] speaks to me and seems full of life, which makes me happy,” she says.
Krakoff elicits the help of consultant Joan Genser in Boston, where she lives part of the year, to find new pieces. She’s also lucky to have an offspring with a creative eye. Her son, Reed Krakoff, is chief artistic officer of Tiffany & Company and former executive creative director of Coach. “Reed often guides my acquisitions,” she says. He has also given her a few pieces she adores, including Hunt Slonem’s neoexpressionist Gold Finches (1994), its tropical birds having found the perfect home in South Florida.