Untitled by Joseph Cornell
Local DC collector and philanthropist Robert Lehrman was the third and final speaker in this year's Collectors' Roundtable series. Speaking on the "Secrets of the Art World," Lehrman tried to unlock those secrets for the enthusiastic audience who came to hear the collector speak on some of his favorite artists and acquisitions. His talk touched on the personal joys and perils of collecting as well as the larger purpose for art. As Lehrman said, "Collecting and supporting arts organizations is a vital civic responsibility."
Lehrman first acquired contemporary and modern art in 1979, and in more than thirty years, he has garnered a museum worthy collection of works by artists that include Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Anish Kapoor, and Joseph Cornell (the subject of a collaboration between Lehrman and the American Art Museum). Lehrman takes his art collecting seriously and does his homework. His annotated notes on a New Yorker article on Hirst seemed canvas-worthy in themselves. He attends museums (and serves on the board of the Hirshhorn), galleries, and art fairs, and recommends the same (well, give it time before you join a board) for the art collectors in the audience. He recommends subscribing to periodicals, and seems to live by the credo: "I will never buy anything that I don't love or don't want to live with."
When asked about how he starting collecting Joseph Cornell's enigmatic and iconic boxes, he acknowledged his mentor, curator and museum director Walter Hopps, for showing him the way. So, if you're a budding collector, in addition to subscribing to magazines and attending art fairs, add finding a good mentor to your to-do list.
If you missed Lehrman's lecture you can view the webcast on American Art's website.