Inside the private art collection of Harley and Adriana Valentine

By Vibhu Gairola| Photography by Brittany Carmichael

When artist Harley Valentine and interior designer Adriana Valentine (née Adriana Louise Romano) started dating 10 years ago, they built their courtship on dinners at Terroni and visits to the 2,500-square-foot studio space of Valentine’s uncle, the fashion photographer George Whiteside. “Art has always been a part of our relationship,” Harley says. It’s no wonder they started a collection of their own about five years ago, when they moved in together. Today, their collection is spread across their Edwardian townhouse in Rosedale, Adriana’s parents’ home and their studio space on Queen’s Quay East. Here, some of the highlights.

Adriana and Harvey Valentine, with their son, Alfie.
Adriana and Harley Valentine, with their son, Alfie.
Morandi Notes
George Whiteside • 2009

The dining room’s clean surfaces are mirrored by a series of similarly tranquil still lifes by Harley’s uncle. He randomly arranged IKEA vases and vessels, photographed them and printed the shots on old pieces of paper from a recipe book. “There are natural water stains and bookmarks already on the pages,” says Harley. “It’s interesting to have in the kitchen because they reference photography but also make you feel like you’re taking notes on cooking.” Their year-old son, Alfie, is a fan. “He isn’t speaking yet, and he communicates primarily through ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs,’ but his fascination with objects is clear,” Adriana says.


George Whiteside • 1998

The master bedroom features another Whiteside. He’s known best for his nudes. In this one, the model is exposed without being objectified or exploited. “On our third date, we went to George’s studio,” Adriana says. “As a Ryerson interior design student at the time, I was floored by George’s world, because it wasn’t just a room with some photographs. Everything was on display.”


Fingal’s Cave
Harley Valentine • 2016

Balance and symmetry are themes that constantly pop up in the couple’s work, including this plastic 3-D model in the corner of their living room. Valentine created it when the city asked artists to submit ideas for a 30-foot sculpture on Yonge Street. It took 72 hours to print. “I was so invested in this piece. It’s this organic, wondrous space that captures echoes,” he says. “I was shortlisted and really excited. I didn’t win the bid, but I still love the work, and it’s informing the direction I’m moving in right now. ”




Mumbai Monkey Morning
George Whiteside • 2002

In the basement, a slightly fuzzy Whiteside snap of statue of the Indian monkey god Hanuman sits above the main couch. “It’s sort of like a bad travel photo,” Harley jokes. “What drew me to it was the primitive structure around the statue. The god is stone and solid, but it’s the scaffolding around it—which is not as strong—that restores the piece. My sculptures are always about the balance of natural materials, and this photo captures that same thing.”


Pop-up book illustrations
Unknown • 1950s

Alfie’s room has an analogue aesthetic. The mobile is from the gift shop at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, while Adriana cut the images out of a vintage pop-up book herself. “I saw them and instantly though of Alfie,” she says. “They’re so reminiscent of that classic view of boyhood, which encompasses everything from Winnie the Pooh to cowboys and Indians.”



Doug Stone • 1992

The opposite wall in Alfie’s room features a whimsical piece that looks a bit like a classroom doodle. Local artist Doug Stone, who has moved some pieces for the Valentines, made it in his ’60s. His pieces often combine text, colour and lines. “It looks like there’s a story that’s both in the words and bigger than them,” Adriana says, to which Harley adds, “But Doug is a messed-up guy, so I don’t want to read into it too closely.”



George Whiteside • 1995

In the washroom, a nude bather above the bathtub keeps the Valentines company. “I love the intertwined forms of the body and the tarp, which make the photo very tender,” Harley says. “George still hand-paints his tarps and backdrops. His studio represents a bygone era in a lot of ways, because he takes time to cultivate a relationship with the models and the work in his series.”



Horn of Plenty
George Whiteside • 2005

The huge still life atop the Valentines’ fireplace is their latest acquisition. They decided not to place it under glass, so that they can enjoy the texture of the photo and its magical realism. “It’s illegal to buy human skulls, so George got this skull through a trade with an ex-girlfriend. He prides himself on his ownership of it,” Harley explains. “This whole still life is built around the skull, and was shot on a top-of-the-line Hasselblad Digital Back Camera, which shows what you can do with just natural light and the power of the machine.”


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