Steve and Lana Carlson at home under two works by Dutch artist Micky Hoogendijk: Fish Eye (closed) and Fish Eye (opened).
Lana and Steve Carlson’s front door opens to an airy industrial loft with art-lined walls. Opposite the entrance, a bright red canvas features an energetic playscape of curves, colors, and shapes. The work, City High, by French artist Ugo Nonis, is an ethereal interpretation of place, a concept familiar to the Carlsons, who cofounded Pop Austin International Art Show, which returns to the city in October after a successful debut in 2014.
Early this year the Carlsons leased a 1,160-square-foot space at Cobra Studios, a live-work complex occupied primarily by artists. With 13-foot ceilings, the minimalist loft, free of interior walls save one, with exposed steel beams and concrete floors, is ideal for highlighting the couple’s art collection. Draping from the ceiling is a gold birdcage with Barbie doll faces peeking through the cage’s slim voids, doll legs and arms protruding. The piece, Golden Cage, by Austin artist Micky Hoogendijk, stands out among the couple’s 18th-century works that share the entryway. “Steve’s grandfather was a collector. He preferred classical work,” says Lana, explaining both the oil painting set on an easel and the putti on a wall. Despite the fact his grandfather’s collection features Rembrandt, Teniers, and other 17th-century artists, Steve appreciates a variety of artistic movements. “I also love the contemporary elements that Lana does,” he adds, “but I think it’s interesting to have some historic pieces as well.”
The home also serves as gallery space, where Lana Carlson shows pieces by appointment.
Steve admits he defers the curating to his wife, who grew up in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and at age 19 moved to Paris. In 2012, Lana organized the first Auguste Rodin exhibition in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. With Pop, she continues to introduce people to new art; only her focus now is contemporary work.
Pop was conceived as an itinerant event. Lana was planning Pop Paris when she met Steve, an award-winning singer/songwriter, who was working on an album and a documentary, Different Town, about his journey through nine countries as a traveling musician. They settled in Austin in 2013, when his movie debuted at SXSW. “It was so inviting,” she recalls. “I’ve lived and traveled in many cities and had never felt what I feel here.” Also in terms of the visual arts, the city seemed to be in a perpetual state of innovation, making it a perfect fit for Pop Austin, where Lana serves as the curator opposite Steve’s role as creative director.
The space just to the left of the rear entrance is a little boudoir with a hanging rack and neatly paired shoes.
In their home, the couple meld their urban European sensibility with a traditional Austin vibe. They may be in constant motion, but theirs is a relaxed kineticism, comfortable with change, particularly when it comes to the art on their walls. Their home is a gallery, with many works for sale—Lana shows them by appointment only. And when they go, they are missed. But Steve explains, “It feels good to have the work be part of that buyer’s collection and pay it forward to them in a way.”
The loft’s high ceilings assure the space necessary for the couple to add to their art collection.
Each work has a story. Steve’s most treasured piece is Perfect Harmony, a black and white photograph of Paul McCartney and John Lennon by Paul Saltzman. It was a gift from the photographer, who met the Beatles in India at an ashram where Saltzman had to wait outside for six straight days before the Maharishi would let him in.
Their first art purchase as husband and wife was Love, by Los Angeles-based artists MYK. The piece—a playfully oversize pink-and-white-striped papier-mâché l-o-v-e—decorates their bedroom, a bungalow-like loft up a short metal ladder. The charming space provides essential privacy and warmth in an otherwise open and stark environment. How does a couple accustomed to traveling establish a home? “I’ve got the best answer for this,” says Steve. “We live five minutes from the airport. I’ve never lived this close to one before. It’s amazing.”