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Like Mother, Sort of Like Son

He may have learned the art of collecting at his mother’s knee, but Nion McEvoy’s aesthetic sensibilities wander much further.


Nion McEvoy

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"Tony Marsh is an artist with the Hedge Gallery in San Francisco. These are part of his Perforated Vessel series. He likes to work with these little balls of all slightly different shapes.”

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“When I write, I tend to prefer my field desk from Best Made Company. I like getting as far away from my computer as possible, sitting cross-legged on a pillow on a bed.”

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“M+R’s German-made brass bullet sharpener is just a very efficient little sharpener.”

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“I love Blackwing pencils for crossword puzzles.”

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“This charred chair is by Maarten Baas for Moooi. It’s very comfortable and gothy at the same time.”

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I bought this iPad stand designed to look like a 1950s TV set from V-Luxe BKNY Design Workshop. The iPad holds images from my art collection so people can scroll through it when they come to the house.”

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Those Firth drumsticks are great for rock or jazz—if I could play jazz.”

(8 of 16)

I just saw these Officine Creative shoes recently in SoHo. They’re my go-to comfort shoe at the moment.”

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“Books by my grandfather, J.P. McEvoy—he was just a versatile, successful, popular-in-his-day writer.”

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“I sent an image of an owl to Celentano Woodworks out of Asheville, North Carolina, which makes custom ukuleles. I’m a terrible player, but I can muddle through Jumpin’ Jim Beloff’s book of ’60s pop tunes arranged for ukulele.”

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“When I saw these Andy Warhol prints, it was so evocative of the time, being a dopey little kid who wanted to be like the Beatles. Everybody wore those boots—everybody cool.”

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“The tiger looks like he’s from Calvin and Hobbes, but the work on paper is by Ellen Berkenblit. It’s a whimsical piece, beautifully printed, kind of childlike but also sophisticated.”

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“This is a photo of my father with Sophia Loren. My parents were divorced, and he was living in Spain and publishing the Spanish edition of Reader’s Digest. So he was living la dolce vita—or la vida loca.”

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“My collection of copper pots—I think they’re really beautiful and have a great feel, heft.”

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“I learned to play the doumbek drum from local master Mary Ellen Donald, and it transformed the way I hear and play percussion.”

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By his own admission, there’s nothing special about Nion McEvoy’s shingled two-story home in Jordan Park, a neighborhood so understated it’s not sure if it’s Laurel Heights or the Inner Richmond.

Inside, though, there’s plenty to distinguish the place: curios, oddities, and countless titles arranged by category, housed in floor-to-ceiling bookcases befitting the CEO of Chronicle Books. And everywhere you look, from the walls to the tabletops, are works of art—an A-list collection nurtured by his late mother, Nan Tucker McEvoy, the pioneering newspaperwoman and granddaughter of M.H. de Young. “She had a very strong, innate aesthetic sense,” McEvoy says of his mother, who passed away in 2015.

Combined, the collections of mother and son have become the basis for the new McEvoy Foundation for the Arts, which opened October 28 in a 5,000-square-foot gallery at Minnesota Street Project. The foundation’s inaugural exhibition, La Mère La Mer, is dedicated to Nan’s love for California artists, featuring works by Wayne Thiebaud, Richard Diebenkorn, Ed Ruscha, and David Hockney. Artists from further afield whom McEvoy admires are showcased as well, from Anne Collier to Ragnar Kjartansson.

But in his own home, McEvoy’s tastes run somewhat more eclectic. While his mother’s collection focused on 20th-century paintings, prints, and sculpture, his crosses genres and includes music, design, and video. “I think it’s a kind of synesthesia,” he says of his genre combining. “I really like the struggle to represent things musical in visual form.” On the eve of the foundation’s opening, we asked McEvoy to pick a few of his favorite things in the gallery above.


Originally published in the November issue of San Francisco 

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