Kelly Crow sat down with Leslie Wexner, the retailing magnate, and close friend of former Sotheby’s principal owner, A. Alfred Taubman. The occasion is a traveling show of Wexner’s Picasso collection. Here he tells Crow how he came to focus on the master:
in the early 1970s, Alfred Taubman, the landlord for some of my stores, and I got into an argument about leases, and he invited me to Detroit to debate it out in his office. Then he invited me to have lunch at his house, and that was the first time I saw art in a private home. It never occurred to me that people lived with significant art. Al suggested I start going to galleries and museums to see what appealed to me. That was daunting.
What I responded to first was the New York School, the abstract artists of the 1940s and 1950s. The Old Masters just seemed old, but the colors and expression of the New York School were interesting to me. So during the first 10 years, I built a reasonable collection of Rothko, Kline and artists of that ilk. I bought a large Henry Moore single figure and a cubist Georges Braque. I lived with different things, René Magritte, Joan Miró. I was experimenting, but the collection felt adrift.
Then one day in the early 1980s, I went to an art fair in Chicago and saw a Picasso drawing. It was a 1920s picture of a seated woman; it was just remarkably moving and very different than the New York School and the abstract things I’d been buying. That was transformational for me because it started me in a very different way. […] I still own some Giacometti, because he is a disciple of Picasso in a different form, and Jean Dubuffet as well.
A Mogul Shrinks His Art Focus (WSJ.com)