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Issue Date: February 2010


Queen of Arts


Jennifer Keirn
Psst … your walls are talking about you. Or rather, it’s the art that adorns them telling tales, says Lisa Dennison, so be sure your art collection reflects your values, personality and tastes. Dennison has rubbed elbows with the world’s greatest art collectors in her nearly 30 years with New York’s Guggenheim Museum and current position as chairman of North and South America for the auction house Sotheby’s. She’ll share tips on how to build an art collection during the Town Hall of Cleveland Speaker Series Feb. 22 at PlayhouseSquare.

Q. What are the building blocks of a great art collection?
Collecting is a bit of art and a bit of science. It requires passion, commitment, knowledge. Time and deep pockets don’t hurt either although they are by no means a prerequisite. If a collector is to be great, [he or she] will be visionary, intuitive, idiosyncratic and courageous.

Q. Do you have a favorite piece that’s passed through Sotheby’s?
It was thrilling when we sold the Magna Carta not long after I joined Sotheby’s. But it’s hard to have favorites because the speed of the auction business doesn’t allow for that bonding experience you may have with an object in a museum.

Q. How about in your personal art collection?
I know this sounds strange, but I’m not much of an art collector. My standards are too high. For almost 30 years, the Guggenheim’s collection was my collection.

Q. What’s your take on Cleveland’s art scene?
The Cleveland Museum of Art is one of the greatest encyclopedic institutions in the country, and the permanent collection is legendary. I’m looking forward to seeing it as well as the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland.

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