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The Curious Collector
August 18, 2023

For Photographer and Collector Vincent Vallarino, Art is a Family Affair

By Zachary Schwartz

Photos by Ryan Lavine

Hidden among Millbrook’s farm pastures and winding country lanes reside some of America’s most influential figures. One such example is Vincent Vallarino, a doyen of the photography world and art collector extraordinaire. But first and foremost, before being an art savant, Vallarino is a family man.

Though Vincent Vallarino grew up in New Hampshire, he regularly visited friends in Millbrook. He eventually moved here in 1987 after purchasing a plot of land formerly owned by the Flagler family. “I’ve been all over the world, and I’ve never been anywhere quite like Millbrook,” says Vallarino. He spent decades converting the property into his family’s own creative complex, an idealistic compound where he, his wife, their children, and grandchildren now pursue artistic endeavors.

Vallarino began his photography discipline by studying under lauded photographers like Minor White. He later apprenticed and practiced across Europe, building his personal photographic style inspired by nature, landscape, abstract forms, and collage. He then started dealing in photographs at a time when the medium was not widely collected. “I became a photography dealer back in the 1970s because of my knowledge and history of photography. Back then, there were very few photography dealers,” he explains.

Vallarino built an art dealing business called Vallarino Fine Art, focused on abstract expressionist paintings by deceased artists such as Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler. Vallarino Fine Art operates out of the septuagenarian’s Millbrook compound, where they handle restoration, framing, cataloging, logistics, sourcing, videography, and photography. They also curate an art gallery in a Manhattan townhouse where artwork is displayed in-situ.

Vallarino credits his success to his constantly evolving, innovating, and curious nature. “I’ve always continued to grow. I’m curious. Curiosity is most important, combined with intuition. Generally, the combination takes you to places you never dreamed of arriving at,” he says.

Vallarino is a passionate raconteur. He regales with stories of the past, including his interactions with Andy Warhol, his modeling in a Christian Dior ad campaign, and his publishing of Richard Avedon’s Nastassja Kinski and the Serpent portrait. He was a dear friend of famed photographer Richard Avedon, and displays many of Avedon’s iconic masterworks in his home, alongside photographs taken by Irving Penn, Walker Evans, and more.

Vincent isn’t the only Vallarino family member working in the arts. His wife Gabrielle is a talented jewelry designer who works with semi-precious stones. Their son Ethan is a painter and the CEO of ARTDAI, a financial technology platform that deals in artwork data analytics. Their daughter Vanessa joined her father at Vallarino Fine Art, where she manages the gallery’s marketing, public relations, catalog, website, graphics, and films. On working with his daughter, Vincent Vallarino says, “I consider myself the luckiest guy on the face of the Earth. I really do. My family is the main deal.”

Family values are essential to Vincent Vallarino, and the family works together to give back to the Millbrook community. “We’ve been really involved in this community since day one,” says Vincent Vallarino. “I’ve been here for 51 years. The town hasn’t changed much, but it has changed for the better because people here care.” The family is involved in the Dutchess Day School, Millbrook Library, Millbrook Golf & Tennis Club, and Dutchess Land Conservancy. “It’s a beautiful place to live. The community is really what makes the town what it is,” says Vanessa Vallarino.

As the next generation of the Vallarino family expands, it is undeniable that a recipe for their success stems from shared family values. And for this particularly creative family, art in its many forms is a family affair.