Art Collector Questionnaire

Cupcake Entrepreneurs Candace and Charles Nelson Are Learning to Love Smaller Art

All images courtesy of Candace and Charles Nelson.

When the entrepreneur couple Candace and Charles Nelson teamed up with interior designer Sara Story to complete their modernist Beverly Hills home, they had one key riddle to solve. How could they design a space that would accomodate their growing art collection? The solution was twofold: learn to appreciate smaller, more intimate works and trust Story's eye for considered integration. 

The final project, which included the addition of a pool house, ended up splashed across the designer's debut monograph, The Art of Home, released last year with Rizzoli. With Story's help, the Nelsons—who founded Sprinkles Cupcakes and the Neopolitan pizza chain Pizzana—transformed their home into a liveable art gallery. Their walls boast works by contmporary artists with ties to California, including Ed Ruscha, Jonas Wood and Brenna Youngblood. The couple’s passion lies with emerging talent, which parallels their engagement with the thrilling and daunting world of venture capital. Here, they reveal the work that went into their picturesque home, the practical challenges of collecting, and the way their upbringings shaped their taste.

Painting: Jonathan Gardner, The Magic Spell, 2023. Sculpture: Ugo Rondinone, The Malleable, 2014. All home photography by Roger Davies.

Where does the story of your personal collection begin?

Candace Nelson: Growing up, I was surrounded by art and collecting, thanks to my parents' passion for Asian antiques. While I appreciated the history behind the pieces they collected, I found myself more drawn to contemporary art. Fresh out of college, before I even bought a couch, I made my first big purchase: a large oil painting. That moment sparked my journey as a collector. 

Charles Nelson: My passion for art was inspired by my dad, who collects post-Impressionist French works. As a child, I would occasionally join him for business trips to New York where stops at galleries, art bookstores, and auction houses were frequent. I was drawn to the energy of the art world and fascinated by the stories of artists and their creations.

Artwork on mantle: Ed Ruscha, Thanks for Being With Us, You Know The Old Story, and There’s No Job Too Small, 1975. Artwork on left wall from the "Apple Blossom Petals" collection by Sam Falls. Artwork on back wall by Brenna Youngblood.

How would you characterize your collection? 

Candace: Over the past 25 years, we have been building a contemporary art collection that primarily focuses on works by emerging and mid-career artists, many based in Los Angeles. Our collection is a testament to the incredible talent and creativity thriving within the art scene in this city. 

What is the first piece you ever bought? 

Candace: An oil painting that I bought off the wall at a local cafe, shortly after graduating college.

Charles: The first piece of art I ever bought was an oil triptych from a local street artist during a trip to Bali. 

Caroline Kent, formalities, gestures, and the desire to disappear, 2021.

Which work provokes the most conversation from visitors? 

Candace: A vibrant painting by Laura Owens featuring a functioning bicycle wheel, which serves as a playful nod to Marcel Duchamp's famous Bicycle Wheel sculpture. The unexpected combination of a spinning wheel and a lively, colorful canvas always catches people's attention and gets them talking.

What was the process like of working with Sara Story on this home? 

Candace: Working with Sara Story on this home was a dream. I felt like we truly spoke the same language because of our shared love for art and design, as well as our international upbringings. Sara has a talent for creating rooms that are both sophisticated and whimsical, and she knows how to make a space come alive with art.

Why did you choose to focus on emerging artists?

Candace: In many ways, our approach to collecting emerging art mirrors our approach to investing in startups. We are drawn to the passion, vision, and potential of these artists, just as we are drawn to the innovative ideas and drive of startup founders. We find great satisfaction in being a part of their journeys, watching them grow, and seeing their impact on the world around them.

Painting from the "Apple Blossom Petals" collection by Sam Falls.

Which artist are you currently most excited about and why?

Candace: I'm most excited about Caroline Kent, an American visual artist based in Chicago, whose large-scale abstract paintings I discovered through Casey Kaplan gallery in New York. Inspired by her Mexican heritage and personal experiences, Kent's work explores the interplay between language and translation. Added bonus: I had the chance to hang out with her at a dinner during Frieze LA, and she is a lot of fun! 

What factors do you consider when expanding your collection?

Candace: I hate to say it, but wall space! I want to live with the art that I collect. 

Sterling Ruby, VERT.BGP., 2016.

What was your biggest influence in fostering your passion for art? 

Candace: My passion for art was shaped by my parents' dedication to collecting, which instilled in me an appreciation for living among art you love.

Charles: Same! 

How has your collection changed as your home and space has changed? 

Candace: In our early collecting days, we found ourselves drawn to large, statement pieces that dominated the room and commanded attention. We’ve now come to appreciate the impact of a well-placed, intimate piece.