Hunt Slonem lives the kind of life you’d expect of an eccentric hermit in a Victorian novel – extravagant collections, more houses than he can keep track of, parrots perching in chandeliers and plants decorating grandiose, colorful spaces, and the kind of furnishings where every piece is storied. And he’ll tell you all of them. This couch came from a palace in India. That throne (yes, a throne) came from a Prince concert set (may he rest in peace).
Slonem, who has been called “Brooklyn’s wildest artist,” is a middle-aged world traveler. From his youth as the oldest son of a navy man, he’s traveled his whole life and never put down roots until he came to New York in the 1970s. He struck gold in the art world with his Saints paintings, a series of vivid, feverish portraits that evoke both drugged hallucinations and religious visions. Forty years later, his paintings sell for a quarter of a million each, and he paints incessantly. Everything from a wall full of simple, almost childish rabbits to murals eighty feet long.
He knew from childhood that he would be a painter all his life, but still he considers his greatest works to be his collections. The Brooklyn loft he uses as a studio today is 30,000 square feet, a massive museum dedicated to a single personality. He estimates it took movers 450 trips to move his belongings from his former studio, a 50,000 square foot penthouse in Hell’s Kitchen.
And yet there’s nothing hoarder-like about his spaces. Walking into the Brooklyn lair, as he calls his new place, one is met with light, space, and glowing colors. Twenty red antique fezes are piled like cupcakes on a 16th century inlaid table. Photos of Slonem and his boyfriend from visits around the world fill corners. Fully five dozen parrots provide the soundtrack, living in a small forest of potted citrus trees and orchids. Slonem defines the studio as a conservatory, and it is in the classical sense – an airy, warm place, intended to be beautiful.