Souren Melikian profiles the van Otterloo collection now on view at the Peabody Essex Museum. Melikian praises the couple’s vision as buyers which makes their collection, in his opinion, superior to impersonal museum collections. Surely what he means is that museums must serve different ends from the aesthetic preferences of persons.
Melikian, however, also reveals the interplay between academics and collectors when he catalogues the long list of museum professionals who moonlighted as advisors to the van Otterloos:
Mr. van Otterloo, an investment fund manager, and his wife began buying pictures in a small way. […] The financier grinned as he reminisced about the prints and pictures with horses and carriages that first caught their attention — their New Hampshire farmhouse had prompted the hobby.
It was Peter Sutton, then curator of European paintings at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, who encouraged them to buy Dutch 17th-century paintings. Mr. van Otterloo had a businessman’s reflex: In 1993, he asked the curator to become their adviser.
When Mr. Sutton left the museum in 1995 to head Christie’s Old Masters Department in New York, Simon Levie, a former Rijksmuseum director, succeeded him, and when Mr. Levie retired in 2009, his friend Mr. Duparc took over. What makes Mr. and Mrs. van Otterloo’s approach to collecting unusual, however, is that they have bought, and still buy, what they love, although they do have each picture systematically checked before making a final decision.
Dutch Masterpieces, Assembled by Art Lovers (New York Times)