Brad Feld

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The Mysteries of Private Art Collections

May 05, 2007

Amy and I love art.  My mom is an artist and I grew up with art, galleries, collectors, and museums.  Amy and I have been collecting since we started dating and I still remember agonizing over our first purchase greater than $1,000.

We are both patrons of the Wellesley Davis Museum.  As a result, we get to go on an annual trip somewhere in the country to look at art.  This year’s trip was to New York City.  I felt like hiding from the world for a couple of days to take a break so I tagged along with Amy and 30 other Wellesley women.

We spent two days wandering around looking at private collections.  We saw several amazing ones (think > $100m of art in apartments ranging from 5,000 to 20,000 square feet.)  The collections were heavy on abstract expressionism and were deeply influenced by a couple of New York art dealers.  Rothko is my favorite abstract expressionist and I got a chance to sit in front of a few beautiful ones and quietly contemplate them.

I was intrigued by the entire experience.  The novelty of sitting in someone’s living room looking at a Bacon Pope, a Rothko, a Dubuffet from the 1940’s, a Cy Twombly, or a Clifford Still wore off pretty quickly and I started thinking about how these folks made decisions about what to buy.  Each of the collections included a raft of chinese antiquities which appear to be the cultural counterpoint to the abstract expressionists.

After two days of this we needed to escape to Chelsea and look at some contemporary stuff that was more in our league.  While I’m struggling to understand why a Francesco Clemente painting goes for $225,000, I found plenty of stuff I could relate to including Leonardo Drew.  Plus it was a beautiful day in New York.