Private collector creates “public lending library”

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October 8th, 2012

Omaha, NE – A private art collector hopes to share his passion for contemporary art in a new exhibit at the Joslyn Art Museum.

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Jordan Schnitzer is a private art collector and philanthropist from Portland, Ore. A portion of his collection is on display at the Joslyn Art Museum through Jan. 6. (Courtesy photo)

“The work in my whole collection is work of our time,” said Jordan D. Schnitzer, as he walked through the Joslyn’s latest exhibition Under Pressure. The exhibit includes 65 prints from Schnitzer’s private collection. Schnitzer is an art collector from Portland, Oregon, who owns thousands of contemporary prints that cover groundbreaking works from artists like Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein. While Schnitzer might be able to afford a smaller collection of original works, he says he deliberately collects prints so that he can get inside the mind of the artist through his or her entire body of work – and share it.

“While it’d be pretty amazing to own a Lichtenstein painting,” he said, “I’d rather own two or three hundred prints since I’m building this public lending library collection, where a curator…can call up from the Joslyn Art Museum and say ‘Boy, we have a slot open. We’d love to do a Lichtenstein retrospective. Can we borrow 200 prints from his first print to the last print before he died?’ And I’d say, ‘When do you want ‘em?’”

“Wigs II” by Lorna Simpson is one of the first featured works in the exhibit.

Over the last 25 years, Schnitzer’s collection has been installed in about 80 exhibitions in over 50 museums. He loans the work for free, and his family foundation provides funding for the museums to create outreach and educational programming around the exhibit.

Robert Rauschenberg’s “Signs” 1970.

Schnitzer says he grew up in a household that valued art, and he hopes to share and inspire the love and appreciation that he grew up with. “I know it’s tough sometimes to drag your kids to a museum because they look at some boring old artwork, and say ‘Ew, what’s that?’” he said with a laugh. “But this show, it’s different.”

“Trust me,” he said, “kids will be so excited to see this work, and you never know, when that creates an impression that will change that child’s life.”

In fact, Schnitzer’s passion for art is infectious. Pointing out a work by Robert Rauschenberg, Signs from 1970, he said his collection is contemporary because it speaks to his own life experience. In this case: the iconic images from America in the 1960’s. “For me, because I can remember some of those times, it’s as if suddenly I can hear the music, I hear the Jeep rumbling, I hear Janis Joplin… the pain, the tears.”

“Look what he does in this work,” he said. “Amazing. Just brilliant.”

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