In The Mix

Art à la Carte

For producers who want artwork on the set, Fanny Pereire is there.

Libby Slate
  • Fanny Pereire with “Amiens” by German photographer Markus Brunetti

    Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery

When HBO's dark comedy Divorce needed a collection of contemporary paintings and sculpture for a party scene, the art director knew whom to call.

As it happened, Fanny Pereire had just been at an art fair in Hong Kong, where she'd seen contemporary Indian artworks.

Based in New York, Pereire researches museums, dealers and shows to come up with artworks for film and television productions. As a fine art coordinator, she secures the visual images — real or art department reproductions — that reflect characters on screen.

"I help tell the story," Pereire says. "If the design is right, you should be able to tell the story without the dialogue."

After studying architecture and costume design at Bennington College, she worked for Christie's, both in its auction house and on its arts publications. She was already involved in production when producer Scott Rudin hired her to wrangle art for her first movie artwork job, the 2002 film Changing Lanes.

Typically, Pereire first reads a script and then meets with the executive producer, director or production designer to learn more about his or her vision. "We talk about which walls need to be covered. Sometimes I'll make files of artists to show them. Sometimes a director will want a certain artist."

For television, she's primarily worked on pilots, for shows such as Showtime's Billions and HBO's Succession. For the latter, a drama about a media dynasty, she wanted to show differences between the family generations. She chose works by Austrian painter Egon Schiele and Spanish painter Juan Gris for the living room of the patriarch, played by Brian Cox.

"They're modern, but not contemporary," she explains. "Something he would have collected 30 or 40 years ago."

In the sitting room of his younger wife, Pereire placed a recent abstract by U.S. artist John Henderson. For a son's office she chose a series of iceberg images by German photographer Frank Thiel, reflecting the character's feelings about his place within the family.

Billions is set in the high-stakes world of hedge funds. When co-creator Andrew Ross Sorkin toured the offices and homes of real-life hedge fund managers, he often saw works by American artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Christopher Wool and Indian Aaron Young. Among the works Pereire brought to the set was a real Young display of burned rubber on metal.

Choosing art is just one aspect of the job. Pereire works with artists' reps or estates and studio legal departments, not only for copyright clearances but for such contract provisions as a guarantee that no character will speak detrimentally about the pieces.

She's on set to make sure the works are properly installed and lit. And when the shoot is done, if copies aren't returned, Pereire is required to provide proof of their destruction.

"That's crucial to getting the rights to the image, so that it doesn't end up in someone's living room," she says. "I cut it up in pieces, and have someone videotape that or take pictures. Sometimes I send the pieces back. I feel like they're my children, but that's part of the deal."

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 6. 2018