The top Warhol collector
Ron Rivlin on his careers in music, restaurants and art collecting by Nikki Gill
Ron Rivlin became an entrepreneur at age 13 and hasn’t stopped since. He is currently a music agent and manager at his company Coast II Coast Entertainment, founder of the Revolver Gallery with the largest gallery-owned collection of Andy Warhol artwork in the world, and a restaurateur.
But back in Grade 9 at Thornlea Secondary School, he was more of a ticket scalper.
“I used to call the local ticket scalpers who advertised in the Sun and tell them I go to a school with 2,000 students and negotiate a discount,” says Rivlin. He operated the business undercover by posting the ticket ads in the boys and girls washrooms. Two years later, he began importing trendy clothing from Guatemala and Ecuador to sell to Grateful Dead fans.
Although each of these businesses was thriving, he says entrepreneurship was something he did out of necessity.
“I toured with the Grateful Dead from when I was 15 to 20, and to go on the road costs money and to buy tickets costs money. So I created entrepreneurial ventures to support that lifestyle,” he says.
Eventually that lifestyle left him broke in California, and he turned to the Canadian consulate to get enough money to return home via Vancouver, the closest entry point.
Once he made it to Toronto, he went back to school, graduated with high marks and was accepted to Western University. Music still played a big role in his life there, he started Daybreaks Productions and became a rave promoter.
Later, he opened the talent agency Coast II Coast Entertainment. “My first clients were Run-D.M.C. and Biz Markie and a lot of the EDM [electronic dance music] DJs,” he says.
At the height of his work there, he was representing 40 clients and did over $60 million in sales but has now reduced his load to three music acts so he can focus on his collection of Warhols.
In 2012, Rivlin visited an old Thornlea classmate who had bought a Mick Jagger painting by Warhol for $10,000.
“I wanted one for above my desk so I went out looking for one and everyone was quoting me $50,000,” says Rivlin.
He realized the value had increased in a short time, and started tracking the auction market. He bought 20 artworks before launching Revolver Gallery in 2012, and acquired more than 100 in his first year. He now owns more than 600 and displays them in his L.A. gallery, where he gets about 2,500 visitors a week.
In 2015 he brought the collection to Yorkville where it attracted over 30,000 people.
Rivlin hopes to tour the collection worldwide to educate people about Warhol. That dream may come true as Live Nation has expressed interest in taking his collection on tour.
In the meantime, he’s working on a book on Warhol economics, a documentary about Warhol in the ’80s, and a Warhol-themed restaurant to open in L.A.
“My first clients were Run-D.M.C. and Biz Markie.”
Rivlin is planning to open a Warholthemed restaurant in L.A.