What I Buy and Why: Filmmaker Ku-Ling Yurman on Her Mission to Collect Works by Women and Her Prized Jewelry Pieces

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By way of explaining her photographic collection, predominantly of or by women, Ku-Ling Yurman called herself an “interdisciplinary artist, mother, sister, daughter who was raised in the concrete jungle of New York City.” Which is another way of saying she juggles multiple pursuits, including filmmaking and photography, as well as raising three children with her husband, Evan Yurman, creative director of his father’s jewelry brand, David Yurman.

In her career, Ku-Ling Yurman has been chiefly involved in the documentary film space. “One doc [I’m working on] is a short piece on painter Paul Waters,” she said. “The other is feature-length which I’m not yet able to disclose [but] the subject is very art-related.” The partial revelation comes on the heels of , the 2019 Netflix documentary on gender disparity in Hollywood, created in association with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, on which Yurman served as executive producer. 

Currently, Yurman is finishing up her second graduate degree from NYU, the School for Education—a program that “combines my art practice, education, collecting, giving, and collaborative endeavors,” she said. All the better to serve, as she does, on the education and photography committees at the Whitney Museum. This year she’s been asked to co-chair the education committee.

We caught up with Ku-Ling Yurman for an education on her collection.

What was your first purchase (and how much did you pay for it)?

My first purchase was a Rita Ackermann print over 10 years ago. I don’t recall the cost, but it was an instinctual mission to focus on collecting femme-generated art.

(Foreground) Rita Ackermann, F-B-D / Blues II (2011). (Background) Brent Wadden, Alignment (2013). Photo: Ku-Ling Yurman.

(Foreground) Rita Ackermann, (2011). (Background) Brent Wadden, (2013). Photo: Ku-Ling Yurman.

What was your most recent purchase?

Alison Rossiter‘s Dassonville Ebony, expired March 1961 (A), a set of two unique gelatin silver prints processed in 2012 and purchased at Paris Photo 2022.

Alison Rossiter, Dassonville Ebony, expired March 1961 (A) (processed 2012). Photo: Ku-Ling Yurman.

Alison Rossiter, Dassonville Ebony, expired March 1961 (A) (processed 2012). Photo: Ku-Ling Yurman.

Which works or artists are you hoping to add to your collection this year?

Ruth Asawa.

What is the most expensive work of art that you own?

The collection of original jewelry pieces my husband Evan has made for me through the years.

Barbara Morgan, Artist Martha Graham, Letter to the World (1940). Photo: Ku-Ling Yurman.

Barbara Morgan, (1940). Photo: Ku-Ling Yurman.

Where do you buy art most frequently?

From galleries, photo fairs, and travels.

Is there a work you regret purchasing? If so, what is it, and why?

No regrets.

Works by Dan McCarthy behind Ku-Ling Yurman's sofa. Courtesy of Ku-Ling Yurman.

Vintage 1960s Italian cloud light and Dan McCarthy’s rainbow painting (ca. 2016). Photo: Ku-Ling Yurman.

What work do you have hanging above your sofa? What about in your bathroom?

Above our sofa is a vintage Italian 1960s cloud light and a rainbow painting by Dan McCarthy. In our bathroom? Nothing. Art in the bathroom makes me nervous!

(foreground) Ilse Bing, Tulips Lying (1939). (background) Raymond Pettibon, . Photo: Ku-Ling Yurman.

(Foreground) Ilse Bing, (1939). (Background) Raymond Pettibon,  (2013). Photo: Ku-Ling Yurman.

But of the bathroom is a Raymond Pettibon, , and a Man Ray photo, , which was a gift to me. My husband picked out these pieces, [which is] why they are all by male artists.

Man-Ray

Man Ray, (ca. 1930). Photo: Ku-Ling Yurman.

What is the most impractical work of art you own?

No work of art that we have is considered impractical.

Peter Halley, Four Prisons, 2009. Photo: Ku-Ling Yurman.

Peter Halley, (2009). Photo: Ku-Ling Yurman.

What work do you wish you had bought when you had the chance?

If I had millions to spare, it would have been Francis Picabia‘s Pavonia painting that sold at Sotheby’s in 2022.

Four photographs by Klara Langer. Photo: Ku-Ling Yurman.

Four photographs by Klara Langer. Photo: Ku-Ling Yurman.

If you could steal one work of art without getting caught, what would it be?

The Louise Bourgeois hanging sculpture that I saw at Hauser & Wirth on the island of Menorca.

Louise Bourgeois hanging sculpture. Photo: Ku-Ling Yurman.

The Louise Bourgeois hanging sculpture at Hauser & Wirth, Menorca. Photo: Ku-Ling Yurman.

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