May 19, 2021
Four + One: The Art Advisor To The NBA Talks Rolex And More
On a sleepy street in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn there’s a pre-war walk-up obscured by scaffolding. Pushing open the front door reveals a sunless entryway frozen in time. At the top of the third-floor staircase, Gary St. Fleur stands wearing a black hoodie and hat bearing his name in bold white lettering. He operates the Saint Fleur art advisory, which caters to NBA stars like Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert, out of this space. The windows are tinted so as not to damage the artwork (both framed and unframed) that adorns almost every inch of usable wall space. Any open walls are filled with bookcases full of books and ephemera of every kind, from travel mementos from Haiti (where he was born) to a rather ornate Boba Fett figurine. A decidedly spicy, and not-quite-cinnamon scented candle smoke fills the air, creating a real "vibe" in the unquestionably bohemian setting. The sounds of the city (basically sirens and construction) beckon from outside. As a fine art advisor, St. Fleur educates his clients on art while also sourcing pieces. "The three things that I do are educate, process, and acquire," St. Fleur says. "The hope is that my collection be in a broader conversation with communities in different places – that I can pass the pieces along to family, to institutions, or share them with the public." St. Fleur has developed a holistic method of advising. "With a client, it's all about getting them out of their comfort zone. Players aren't coming to me to source a painting of a basketball,” he says. “My service is not that. I am more interested in building a historical collection, in understanding the role art plays in society. I send my clients books, and podcasts so they can learn about the art." Along the way, he’s accumulated a heavy-hitting, Rolex-centric watch collection. Every piece has a unique backstory – some connect to his personal life, and others illustrate the random nature of watch acquisition. "I picked these four because each one plays a role in my success." The Four Panerai Luminor Marina You always remember the first one. For St. Fleur, it’s his 44mm Panerai Luminor Marina. Before he became involved with fine art, he was an e-commerce entrepreneur selling rare sneakers in the early days of eBay. The sneaker business sparked his interest in collecting. "This purchase represented the first year in business, and it was a profitable year. I was celebrating that. I bought that watch in 2007, so I rocked only the Panerai for a while – for just about a decade." Rolex Milgauss This wasn't his first Rolex. No, that one currently belongs to an ex-girlfriend who took a liking to his stainless steel 36mm Datejust. But we don't talk about that watch anymore. Instead we have the Milgauss, the Rolex to take its place. "When this watch first came out, everyone wanted one – but I couldn't afford it,” he says, holding the watch in his hands and tilting it admiringly in the light. “I was always dreaming about it. When I say it's my dream watch, you have no idea. I have no words to explain it. It's one of the most beautiful watches I've ever seen in my life. It's the green crystal and that orange pop. As somebody who loves art, you can see why I love this watch." Rolex Datejust You often hear that watch collecting – well, really purchasing – is about the thrill of the chase. In St. Fleur's case, while he was chasing one watch another appeared seemingly out of thin air. "This watch was never on my radar. I was waiting for the blue one with the stick dial, and white gold fluted bezel. – I love the color blue. I got a call and was told 'Gardy, we know you're waiting on the blue Datejust, but we got this one in.' I saw a friend of mine later that day who said to me 'I think you should go get it right now,’” he says. “I didn't know anything about this watch at the time, but now I wear it more than anything else in my collection. It's flashy, but not too flashy – it's just a nice classic Rolex. This is the watch I wear courtside to the Nets or the Kicks game." Rolex GMT-Master II St. Fleur's third Rolex is an inadvertent memento of a dark time. "This watch came in on March 14, 2020 – the day New York City shut down. This was a watch I had been waiting for, but think about it, the world was going crazy, the city was empty, and I bought a watch – it sounds weird to say that out loud. "I got the call from my AD that the watch was available but I slept on it. I went there the next day and the whole store was empty. No one at all, just me. I remember feeling so bad and ashamed that, you know, this pandemic is happening and I'm about to drop all this money on a watch. But I called a friend of mine – again – just to get advice and they said, 'Just do it. With that watch, you don't question it, you just do it,' and I did." THE ONE Black-and-white Photograph by Laurent Chevalier "It was released three years ago," St. Fleur says. "I saw it and knew I had to have it. It's a beautiful photo – I love everything about it, especially how the sunlight is shining down on the mother with her two boys on a New York sidewalk. When I look at it, I see me and my brother." Gardy St. Fleur (right) with his brother Steve St. Fleur (left). For more information, visit saintfleur.com. All photos: Kasia MiltonGardy St. Fleur unveils a handful of watches, including the one he wears courtside – plus a sentimental photograph.