Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson’s gift to The Art Institute of Chicago of 44 works opens this weekend. During the publicity walk through, Edlis showed a reporter what it means to be an owner instead of a spectator:
But the Twombly, a work of about 50 square feet, came into Edlis’ home with something missing. “I looked at it. It was about 10 o’clock at night,” he recalls. “I said, ‘Guess what? Home Depot is open 24/7.’ By 1 o’clock in the morning I went in there and got these frame pieces and framed it myself,” nailing off-the-shelf wooden trim pieces directly into the wooden stretcher to which the multimillion-dollar canvas was affixed. “That was my midnight framing caper.”
At the Damien Hirst “Still,” a careful and borderline sinister arrangement of medical instruments in a full-wall glass case, Edlis tells of unscrewing the acorn nuts holding the cabinet’s glass walls in place: “They come apart, and I’ve been in there cleaning things up myself. because I love to do that. That’s part of it.”
At the large-scale Takashi Murakami canvas, “Mr. Pointy,” he is explaining the extraordinary silk-screening technique used by the Japanese artist, getting closer and closer to the colorful image of a buddha. And then, boom, Edlis’ index finger is on the painting as he explains that what looks like plastic, perhaps, is actually canvas densely layered with paint.
Two publicists and a reporter trade wide-eyed glances. Edlis doesn’t even bat an eye. He, after all, has lived with these works in his apartment further up Michigan Avenue, putting together what experts have called one of the greatest collections of pop art in the world. He should know whether a touch is OK.
Massive art gift transforms Art Institute (Chicago Tribune)