Art from the Land of Sun and Shadows continued

By then they had been traveling to Mexico from their home in Wichita, Kansas, for a decade. (Pollak now lives in Longboat Key, Fla.) Having spent some time in Morelia, in the west-central province of Michoacan, they had been captivated by some of the art they had seen. They had even bought a few pieces, more as travel mementos than as real collecting. Gradually, they got serious about it, and spent a couple of years studying the subject intensively before they began to frequent galleries in Mexico City.
   “I came to the realization that to collect successfully, knowledge of your subject was the best tool you could have,” says Pollak, adding that when he began studying it seriously, “I felt that it was just a miniscule part of world art, and I could absolutely master the subject.”
   He laughs quietly at his own hubris. “After 35 years, I’m proud to state that my knowledge is at best superficial. It’s an enormous, enormous subject. One artist is a life-time endeavor.”
   “He is very modest about it,” says Dr. Dilys Winegrad Gr’70, director and curator of the Arthur Ross Gallery and editor of the catalogue. “He says ‘Oh, I don’t know anything about this,’ and so on, but he knows a great deal about the subject matter, and it’s very clear that he’s read everything he can get his hands on.”

   All of the artists the Pollaks collected were born by 1940, which puts them in the modern category rather than the contemporary. Although Pollak was advised by experts in the field, Winegrad points out, “as in all private collections, there is a big element of the collector’s taste.”
   But that taste is “very universal,” she adds, “and I think people will love the fact that it does have a lot of very Mexican-looking work.”

   That certainly describes the Pollaks’ first twin-purchase in 1965, from the Galer’a de Arte Moderna in Mexico City: Zalce’s Vendadora de Patos (“Girl Selling Ducks”) and Leñador (“Woodcutter”). When they found out that Zalce was from Morelia, they began to visit him in his studio and bring him hard-to-find brushes and tobacco. Over the years, they continued to buy his paintings. (Zalce, now 93, is still alive.)
   “We collected for our own pleasure,” Pollak points out, “and as a result, we seemed to collect the same kind of pictures over and over, the same artists over and over. Either you like them or you don’t. The artists you really like, you always want more.”

Although Marcia Corbino’s essay in the catalogue mentions that Pollak had taken art-appreciation courses while a student at Penn, he admits that he barely remembers them. “I’ve always been kind of an art buff, and always been a museum-goer, ever since I can remember,” he says. Yet he is emphatic that his wife was more discriminating than he, and regards the catalogue as a tribute to her collecting talents.
   “She had the best taste,” he says matter-of-factly. “There’s no question of that. She was very discerning. Generally, she would do the selecting, and I would do the economics. Ninety percent of the time, I liked what she liked, but once in a while I didn’t, and if I didn’t, we wouldn’t buy it.
   “Interestingly enough, when I’m complimented on a picture by somebody who’s very knowledgeable, invariably it’s one of the pieces that she was involved in the selection,” he adds. “I don’t get too much commentary about the ones I picked out.”


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Left: Seated Woman, 1966, by Armando Amaya; below: Sleeping
Soldiers, 1934, by Máximo Pacheco;
Head of a Woman, ca.1937, by Carlos Orozco Romero; and Still Life with Mexican Objects, 1944, by Olga Costa.




Copyright 2001 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 8/24/01