the passionate collector: eighty years in the world of art

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    Eighty Years in the World of Art

    ROY R. NEUBERGERWith Alfred and Roma Connable



  • Books by Roy R. Neuberger

    So Far, So Good: The First 94 Years

    An autobiography by Roy R. Neuberger with Alfred and Roma Connable


    Eighty Years in the World of Art

    ROY R. NEUBERGERWith Alfred and Roma Connable


  • Art reproductions courtesy of the Neuberger Museum of Art.

    Copyright 2003 by Roy R. Neuberger. All rights reserved.

    Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey.Published simultaneously in Canada.

    No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system ortransmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,recording, scanning or otherwise, except as permitted under Sections 107 or 108 of the1976 United States Copyright Act, without either the prior written permission of thePublisher, or authorization through payment of the appropriate per-copy fee to theCopyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, MA 01923, (978) 750-8400,fax (978) 750-4470, or on the web at Requests to the Publisher forpermission should be addressed to the Permissions Department, John Wiley & Sons,Inc., 111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030, (201) 748-6011, fax (201) 748-6008,

    Limit of Liability/Disclaimer of Warranty: While the publisher and author have usedtheir best efforts in preparing this book, they make no representations or warrantieswith respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this book and specificallydisclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or f itness for a particular purpose.No warranty may be created or extended by sales representatives or written salesmaterials. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for yoursituation. You should consult a professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher norauthor shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other commercial damages, includingbut not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

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    ISBN 0-471-27343-0

    Printed in the United States of America.

    10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  • This book is dedicated with great affection and respectto the extraordinary, original, passionate artists who haveenriched my life beyond measure.


  • ix


    PREFACE xi



    Memories of Paris in the 1920s 1


    A Collection Begins 17


    Working with the Whitney 43


    The Great Dealers 59


    MoMA: Modern Art Comes of Age 81


    The Collectors 103


    My Love Affair with the Metropolitan 125


    The Neuberger Museum of Art 141


    Advice for Young (Under Ninety-Nine) Collectors 153

    INDEX 163

  • xi


    My interest in art began when I was an eighteen-year-old col-lege drop-out, working at the B. Altman department store and

    taking art lessons at night. I decided that I would never be a first-

    rate painter. But I discovered that I loved art and had a good eye

    for it.

    Later, living in Paris in the 1920s, I read Floret Fels compellingbiography of Vincent van Gogh, who had died in torment and

    Portrait on wall by Peter Fink. (Photo by Fran Sotnick.)

  • Preface


    poverty. He was one of the greatest artists of all time, and no onewould buy his paintings.

    The French flunked with van Gogh and Paul Cezanne, who was not given a one-man show until he was fifty-six. Even then, thereviews were tepid. When Cezanne died in 1906, he had no idea thatthe world would view him as a great painter.

    I wanted America to do better by its artists. I resolved to col-lect the work of living artists and to encourage others to do thesame.

    In retrospect, this was an audacious decision for a young man ofmodest means and no career. I returned to America from Paris andwent to work on Wall Street because, as the celebrated safecrackerWillie Sutton replied when asked why he robbed banks, Thatswhere the money is. Fortunately, I did well on Wall Street withoutrobbing any banks.

    I was a trainee at the Wall Street firm of Halle and Stieglitz onBlack Tuesday, October 29, 1929. Older, wiser, and richer men lostmillions, but I came out of the Panic intact and with a greater appre-ciation of the vagaries of the market.

    The firm I founded in 1939, Neuberger & Berman, where I stillenjoy going to work, now manages $55 billion of other peoplesmoney. Success on Wall Street enabled me to buy more than a thou-sand works of art from gifted painters and sculptors, and to becomean art advocate and activist. Some of the paintings and sculpturesthat I bought purely because I loved them were later critically ac-claimed. I still derive enormous pleasure from a fine painting orsculpture, and I hope that at age 99 my critical and appreciativesenses remain sharp.

    Although I have collected art for almost eighty years, I havenever sold the work of a living artist. Nelson Rockefeller, when hewas governor of New York, wanted to buy my collection. I wouldntsell. He then persuaded me to give away most of it by establishing the

  • Preface


    Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College, part of the StateUniversity of New York.

    Earlier, beginning in 1945 with the gift of four paintings (in-cluding a Milton Avery) to the Brooklyn Museum; then with elevenpaintings to the University of Michigan; nineteen to MountHolyoke; eight to Bryn Mawr; and other paintings to Williams,Smith, and Yale; I worked to place art in universities and museumsacross the country.

    So far, I have given more than 950 paintings and sculptures tothe Neuberger Museum, including thirty-three Averys, and 500more to seventy other museums and colleges.

    My effort, in giving away art and donating money to museumsto acquire art, has been to help foster interest in the work of con-temporary artists.

    I am happy to have played a role in the development and accep-tance of living artists. Beyond their professional lives, I have beencommitted to seeing that artists could pay their rent and eat a de-cent meal.

    Helping artists and developing museums is an old tradition inthe financial world. J. P. Morgan, the Mellon family, and the Rock-efellers were all outstanding in creating our best museums.

    The twentieth century saw a proliferation of artists in America.More people were able to live as artists than in earlier times. Americans developed much stronger reputations as important artists.

    My taste in art was definitely influenced by living in Paris inthe 1920s, although I wasnt aware of that until much later.

    I didnt know that I was going to be a pretty well-known collec-tor. However, I had some suspicion in 1944 when the Museum ofModern art asked me to open my home so they could view my art. Iwas the first person in the city they asked. By that time I had ac-quired Marsden Hartleys The Fishermens Last Supper and severalother contemporary works by breakthrough artists.

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    Looking at the art explosion, manifest today in the record num-bers of people pouring into Americas museums, I count myself for-tunate to have been eyewitness and participant.

    My life has been enhanced by marvelous peoplemuseum direc-tors and curators, collectors, dealers, critics, and art historians (in-cluding the great Meyer Schapiro, for a time my roommate in Paris),and of course the wonderful artists themselves.

    For bringing me so much joy, I am grateful to Milton Avery,Jackson Pollock, Ben Shahn, Max Weber, Hans Hofmann, AlexanderCalder (all of whom I collected early in their careers) as well asHenry Moore, John Marin, Edward Hopper, Willem de Kooning,Georgia OKeeffe, and many others.

    As collector, museum trustee, and president of the AmericanFederation of Arts, I was afforded a singular window on the amazingperiod of American art that began about the time of the Depressionand continues into the twenty-first century.

    While I was buying art, traveling the country for AFA, andworking with the trustees, directors, and curators of the Museumof Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and theMetropolitan Museum of Art, the New York School held a com-manding place in the art world. My personal world was peopled bythe brilliant art professionals responsible for this glorious period ofAmerican leadership.

    Outstanding scholars helped mold my taste and guide my collect-ing. At mid-century, an incredible group of people staffed the finearts departments in colleges and universities and would becomeprime movers in Americas leading museums. Among them wereFrancis Henry Taylor and Philippe de Montebello, both scholars be-fore becoming directors of the Metropolitan Museum of Art;Dorothy Miller, Alfred Barr, and James Soby, all at the Museum ofModern Art; and my good friends Jack Baur and Lloyd Goodrich,both directors of the Whitney.

  • Preface


    I rate the

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