Skip to main content

When poet Cleo Wade and writer-producer-director Simon Kinberg (The Martian, X-Men: First Class, The 355, Invasion) got engaged in 2019, the evening was wrapped up in art.

A few days before Kinberg’s proposal – during a meeting at their home – their friend, civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson, sent a photo of the couple to artist Brandon Breaux. The artist in turn created a multicolored drawing from the photo showing the couple in silhouette. On the evening of the engagement, Mckesson also presented guests with postcard-sized prints of the work. “They wrote little things on the back and drew on [them]. It was so cute,” Wade recalled. “It was a cool way to bring the art to life.”

The night was a snapshot of how the couple approach collecting art, with a focus on works that express freedom and joy. “We’re both really responding to something that feels really free,” says Wade, author of the books. What the road said and talk about heart. “We collect based on a range of emotions, probably the most dominant being joy.”

A poem by Cleo Wade is painted outside artist Brandan ‘BMike’ Odums’ studio in New Orleans; the couple collect works by Odums.
Jeremy Tauriac

The couple are also interested in works that use collage and “artwork that engages with contemporary life and social critique, with a focus on the lived experience of black people,” says their art advisor. , Jelena Kristic, who started working with Kinberg in 2016.

“We never felt that we should get any piece from anybody,” says Wade, noting that in selecting artwork, the couple thinks about acquiring pieces from “the people we think are the best in their field, and a lot of women, black women, women of color and queer artists are the best artists in the world.

In their Brentwood home, their collection ranges from pieces by Raymond Pettibon and Wolfgang Tillmans that Kinberg collected before the duo met, to a dreamy surreal painting by Francesco Clemente (a mentor of Wade) and a set of colorful silhouettes by Kara Walker. Other works include spray paint cans painted by New Orleans artist Brandan “BMike” Odums (who did the cover portrait of Will Smith’s memoir Will) and an eight-foot-tall multi-layered painting by Los Angeles-based artist Corey Pemberton.

“As someone who has always loved art, living with it is a transformative experience. And it’s a great investment, although I don’t intend to sell any of those things,” says Kinberg, whose credits also include Mr and Mrs Smith and dead Pool. He currently writes and produces Universal’s Battlestar Galactica film and production Elevator to Netflix with F. Gary Gray directing Kevin Hart.

Image loaded lazily

by Lorna Simpson The curve, 2011, Collage and ink on paper, 10 7/8 x 8 1/2 in (27.6 cm x 21.6 cm). Cleo Wade and Simon Kinberg collection.
© Lorna Simpson. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth

Kinberg, who has long loved the art of collage, says, “I don’t know why I love it, but it would probably be for similar reasons that I love working in film and television. There’s something about bringing disparate elements together to create a singular end product that interests me.

Among their favorite art exhibitions in recent years were Lorna Simpson All at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles (“It was beyond,” says Wade) and an exhibition of works by Jean-Michel Basquiat in New York in 2019.

As for current exhibitions in Los Angeles, the two recommend going to the recently reopened underground museum to see its display of works by the late painter and museum co-founder Noah Davis.

Wade, who has a long history of collecting portraits of black subjects from vintage stores (including Sunbeam Vintage in Highland Park), offers advice to someone new to the collection: “Buy art from a friend – someone you you know makes art. Or go to a thrift store. Find things that just make you happy.

“Art doesn’t always have to be fancy,” she continues. “An art book can be art. Because ultimately art is about what you love and what puts you in a good mood when you walk in and what inspires you. There are drawings of our daughter that do that.

Deborah Roberts Either by the falcon of the dove; I am the seed and the flower; sewn together

Image loaded lazily

Deborah Roberts, Either by the falcon or by the dove; I am the seed and the flower; sewn together, 2018. Mixed technique and collage on paper. Copyright Deborah Roberts. Courtesy of the artist and the Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.

Kinberg and Wade — the parents of two daughters, Memphis, 2, and Bayou, 5 months — say their eldest loves this multimedia triptych by Austin-based artist Deborah Roberts. The work hangs in their dining room.

“Memphis walks up and says, ‘Hey, hello,'” Wade says.

“It’s nice for them to be able to look up and see little girls,” adds Kinberg, who also has two sons, Toby, 16, and Oliver, 12, from a previous marriage.

by Francesco Clemente 23-04-2020

Image loaded lazily

‘4-23-2020’ from the ‘Beauty Without Witness’ series, 2020. Watercolor on paper. 18 1/16 x 23 15/16 inches. Collection of Cleo Wade and Simon Kinberg.
© Francesco Clemente

The couple purchased this watercolor, 23-04-2020, by the Italian-born artist on the birth of their first daughter. Wade credits the painter with helping her on her journey as a writer.

“I lived in New York for 13 years and his studio was down the street from my house, so we became friends,” she recalls. “He’s a great collector and reader of poetry, and he actually incorporates a lot of poetry into his work.”

“When I first thought of writing poetry,” Wade continues, “you didn’t really see people being poets for a living. It was 10 years ago, before this generation of poets that exists [now]. There was no market. It was so hard. I remember thinking, ‘I don’t think you can be a poet [and make] a source of income. But maybe you could be a Barbara Kruger or a Jenny Holzer.

So Wade began creating artwork that incorporated his handwriting. “They were like these gunky paintings with a lot of things, and Francesco was one of the first to see them and said, ‘You know, you’re really scared that words are bad and that’s why you all have this thing that’s going on. If you just take a year to just work on the words, I think it will change your life. And I remember having this little pink typewriter and writing and I [was] very precise with. And I did that for a year, and two years after that talk about heart came out of.”

by Corey Pemberton TT, I’m so sick of you

Image loaded lazily

by Corey Pemberton TT, I’m so sick of youcourtesy of UNREPD.
Angie Graves. Courtesy of UNREPD

“It’s just joy,” Kinberg says of the painting by Los Angeles-based artist Corey Pemberton, acquired by UNREPD Gallery of Los Angeles (619 N. Western Ave.). Made from acrylic paint, jewelry found in trades, and inkjet prints, the artwork stands 8 feet tall.

“It’s by far the biggest piece we have,” adds Kinberg. (The couple purchased a number of holiday gifts for friends and family from UNREPD last year, including a photo of Alrinthea Carter and a ceramic vase by Dina Nur Satti.)

At Raymond Pettibon’s No title (Pages are)

Image loaded lazily

At Raymond Pettibon’s No title (Pages are), 2020. Acrylic, ink and graphite on paper. 22 1/4 x 30 inches (56.5 x 76.2 cm), RaP 8673.
Courtesy of Regen Projects, Los Angeles

This work is one of two pieces by Raymond Pettibon that hang in Kinberg’s home office. “[It’s] literally on writing. It’s a constant reminder that I’m not alone, because the pages are blank,” says Kinberg, who will soon begin filming Season 2 of the Apple TV+ series. Invasion (on which he is both writer and executive producer.)

Another piece he loves is one of Andy Warhol’s earliest works that depicts a recipe. It bears very little resemblance to Warhol’s later works, made when he had established a signature style. “As a writer, especially when you’re writing drafts and drafts of things — ‘The first draft is terrible. I am not good. I should quit work’ – well, you know the greatest artists of all time started with sketches. It helps you survive.

Artwork by Brandon Breaux

Image loaded lazily

This artwork created by Brandon Breaux is based on a photo of the couple.
Courtesy of Deborah Roberts

“We were all in the living room and they were snuggling up on the sofa and I took a picture,” friend and activist DeRay Mckesson recalled snapping a photo of the couple that became the basis for this drawing by Brandon Breaux.

The Chicago-based artist’s work includes album covers for Chance the Rapper as well as the cover of the late John Lewis’ latest book, To continue. “Brandon is very special in our life,” Wade says. “The first Hanukkah gift I gave Simon was a Brandon Breaux.” Mckesson adds, “What I’ve always liked about Cleo’s eye is that she knows what she likes.”

Morning by Wolfgang Tillmans

Image loaded lazily

Wolfgang Tillmans, “The Morning”, 2015.
Courtesy of Galerie Buchholz

Kinberg and Wade own a number of works by German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans, including a self-portrait of the artist as well as “in the morning”, a photo of musical artist Frank Ocean.

A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.