Feature > Home is Where the Art Is

It could have been so simple: Find the house, endure the move, enjoy. But for one New Hampshire couple, that process wasn’t the right approach. Collectors whose interest in art evolved from a passing curiosity to a consuming passion, they were looking for a place that would welcome their family and showcase their spectacular cache of art.

“We looked all over. There just wasn’t anything out there that had enough wall space,” says one of the homeowners, who wishes to remain anonymous.

Assembling their art collection has been a fifteen-year labor of love for the couple. Through scouring galleries in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and New England; attending art auctions and museum school shows; and visiting artists’ private studios, the homeowners accumulated a collection of oil paintings, limited-edition prints, glasswork, pottery, digital prints, photography, bronze sculptures and silverwork. It wasn’t long before the couple’s 2,900-square-foot condominium was too small to house the growing collection. That’s when they went house hunting.

When that failed, they moved to Plan B: Find a piece of land, house plans and a reputable contractor (Robert Scott Homes, Inc.), then build to suit their needs. The resulting neo-Mediterranean home sports 6,200 square feet of living area, abundant wall space, nine-foot ceilings and neutral limestone tile throughout that lends continuity to the space. And every room spills over— tastefully—with art.

Understanding Art

Neither one of the homeowners had any early exposure to art. An art teacher who lectured on then-contemporary artists Warhol, Calder and Pollack planted the seed for the woman in high school. The man had always preferred representational arts—landscapes and nautical prints—but it wasn’t until the mid-1980s when he and his partner began “gallery hopping” that their interest reached full bloom.

Even with this driving interest, the couple felt intimidated by the art world until a gallery owner inspired them to move beyond their fears. “He said [to] find an artist whose paintings you like, buy a book about him [and] read it over the weekend, and by Monday you’ll know more about that artist than 99.9 percent of the people in the world,” the man says. And that was how it started.

The couple’s taste in art spans from surreal to whimsical to abstract. While they own works by key modern masters—including Picasso, Matisse, Miro, Frankenthaler and Rauschenberg—the couple delight in the talents of New England-based artists such as Lloyd Martin, Gary Haven Smith and Dorothy Simpson Krause.

Knowing the personality and techniques of an artist often adds a larger dimension to an owner’s appreciation of the person owning the piece. “Talking with artists, you begin to understand how they work through the process of composition, how they manipulate their medium, how they view their piece,” the woman says. So what goes into choosing a piece of unique sculpture like an Antonio Grediaga Kieff bronze or Cora Roth oil that looks like toothpaste squeezed on a canvas?

“The piece has to speak to us,” the man says, “We’ve migrated toward abstract work because it never stops speaking to you. A different angle, a different viewing distance, different lighting—they all affect perception. Unlike, say, a windmill by a pond that is always a windmill by a pond.”

A Home for Art

Mirroring a recent trend at museums, the couple chose to showcase their art on colored walls. “We’re not afraid of color,” they say. Gone is the traditional white, supplanted by walls of mottled ochre, deep sage, aubergine and blood red. The living spaces generate their own personalities, yet are harmonious with adjacent areas and the structure as a whole.

The cozy living room, in an alcove off the stairwell, is a plush cocoon with a fireplace and a Picasso Bacchanal linocut over it. The wall to the left of the fireplace boldly draws attention to the red-lacquered credenza with a large Roberto Matta carborundum etching print.

One of the most dramatic aspects of the interior design is the cavernous great room with its nineteen-foot-high ceiling. The space is dotted with sculptures, oils and museumworthy edition prints. Hung between French doors on the back wall is a ten-foot-high commissioned oil by Wlodzimierz (Wlodek) Ksiazek in muted pinks, deep reds and burnt orange.

The grand foyer alone houses the Calder inspired mobile of spiraled mahogany titled PneuMama by New Hampshire artist Jonathan Clowes. The seven-foot sculpture emulates the graceful turn of the staircase’s wrought-iron balusters beneath it.

Recessed downlighted niches along the staircase hold an abstract granite torso sculpture by Massachusetts artist Jim Zingarelli, a Picasso fish plate, a bronze torso by Alexander Archipenko and a highly polished free-form Kieff sculpture. Across from the staircase, are two Rauschenberg pieces—a large Chinese mixed-media monoprint from a 1982 series called Seven Characters and a photo of bamboo from the Chinese Summerhall series.

But of all the pieces that give life to the foyer, two oversized bronze pears command attention. World-renowned sculptors Luis Montoya and Leslie Ortiz, collectively known as Popliteo, created the fruit. He does the bronze casting, while she does the patination. This combination results in such a realistic rendition of color and texture that you might be tempted to take a bite.

The Gallery

Through the years as their collection grew, the couple learned to be more discerning about their definition of “good art,” always buying because of their connection with a piece— never as just an investment. “The biggest revelation for me was when I understood that not all great art is in museums,” the woman says. In fact, some great art resides in their lower level gallery.

Ten years ago while flipping through an artist’s catalog at a gallery in western New Hampshire, the couple serendipitously came across the work of Ksiazek. His works of art— with their drips, gouges, slatherings and encrustations of paint on wall-sized work— spoke to them. Over time, the couple cultivated a lasting friendship with the artist and ultimately extended an invitation to Ksiazek to permanently exhibit his work in their home.

The entire lower level—a 2,200-squarefoot walk-out basement with a wall of glass— serves as a gallery of more than two dozen of Ksiazek’s works. It’s been a win-win for the artist and two of his biggest fans—Ksiazek has a venue for showcasing his art, and the couple enjoy it whenever they wish.

So has living in a home with museum quality art satiated their passion for experiencing art? Apparently not.

At last check, the couple were on their way out the door to tour the Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens in New York—which feature works by some of the best-known artists of the twentieth century—to satisfy, as they fondly call it, their art fix.