Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Best of Park West

Living Colors

Friends like to tease this Philadelphia couple about their ever-expanding art collection: how if they obtain one more piece they’ll have to buy a new house in which to keep it.
Undeterred, the Katz’s are pursuing a passion for collecting which began with a single brilliant Tarkay print.

Edna Katz explains to Louis Postel how that first love blossomed into an ‘almost gallery’ of originals.


Louis Postel: How did you first come across an art auction?

Edna Katz: On a ship. It was the Celebrity Millennium.

LP: So did you assume you were going to buy art on a ship?

EK: No, but we said to ourselves: Oh… There’s an art auction, we should go!
I used to teach in a local school and the kids would do a local auction. They would bring ring in an actual auction house—though nothing of the quality of Park West, no originals or anything like that.
We started doing that maybe 20, 25 years ago to support our schools, and it was a nice way to pick up some prints for the wall. So when we went on the Millennium, which was our first big cruise, and saw that there was going to be art auction, we went.
And we fell in love with the auctioneer, because he was just a hoot and he knew his stuff. I wanted to ask him about a couple of pieces. He said, Well come, we’ll have champagne and look at them.

We bought four pieces at that first auction and that was what got the gallery interested in inviting us to more. They’re very, very much into finding what you like. Oh, they’ll ask: Do you collect Erte? Do you collect Tarkay?
They will let us know when an auction is taking place here in the Philadelphia area, or on a ship, or in the home office—the home office is gorgeous. The Vegas experience was just so much fun. Even though you were in Las Vegas, you were bidding on artwork, and then you were going around to big time restaurants, shows, and casinos at night, for more entertainment. They do take care of their customers and their clients, they really do.

LP: Do you remember the first piece you really fell in love with?

EK: Yes. We bought a Tarkay, a print. And then later when we got to Park West’s home office we got to buy more; now I own six Tarkays: three watercolors and three original oils and acrylics.

LP: Are they all in your home here, or—

EK: Yes.

LP: How have you displayed them?

EK: Well, my home is an almost gallery.
We expanded our house, we have double height ceilings across the whole back of our house, and we can therefore accommodate a lot of our artwork up the walls. We are lucky to be able to show our artwork here so that our friends and we can enjoy it.

LP: Is it fair to say that first auction got you and your husband going as collectors?

EK: Absolutely. And every once in a while the gallery will call: “Are you ready for another event?”…And it becomes at matter of can I afford a new painting right now, and where am I going to put it?

LP: What feedback do your friends give you?

EK: My friends are awed by the pieces.
They wonder where in the world we’re going to put the next one. They ask if we’re going to buy another house just to show the new artwork. In fact, we did buy a house at the shore, and I brought a lot of the prints out there. The originals will stay with us here in Philadelphia because we’re just not out there enough.

LP: How’s the Park West staff?

EK: I’m just fascinated by the amount of knowledge that the art staff has. Morry is just… Morry Shapiro can tell you anything.
I will ask him question privately rather than ask on the floor because sometimes my question is a very particular thing that the rest of the people aren’t interested in. But often we have found if I have the question, there are other people have the same one.
They are extremely knowledgeable. However, parts of the VIP events that are not about the art. They’ll say, “We’re all going to go out to Red Square for dinner! We’re in Vegas, and we’re going to Red Square for dinner, and the next thing I know we’re all in the little vodka room in fur coats.

LP: Do the auctioneers ever push art as a good investment?

EK: No. But they’ll tell you, for instance, that you have to be extremely careful about the Dali works. Everybody who works in the art world knows that Dali has been copied more than any other famous artist has, and you have to be careful that your provenance is correct. They will show you what it is and trace the provenance with you. You have copies of everything when you buy, so you know that you can resell the artwork if that’s what you want. My husband keeps track on the computer of what the current market value of the piece is. Most of them have gone up. I wouldn't say that a lot of them are climbing, but they’re certainly doing better than the stock market.

LP: How about your own personal taste – has that changed since the beginning?

EK: No. It’s evolved in a lot of ways, we’ve learned about new artists, but our taste is the same. A curator at a museum once said, “Your taste is so eclectic,” and I said, “No, it really isn’t. Our taste is all about color.”
So, we own a lot of different artists but they all have some magic of color.
I became a fan of Alfred Gockel because there’s so much color. Tarkay was originally one of our first purchases because it was all about color. Some people are much more into the masters but I’m not. They just don’t do the same thing for me. There was a Chagall I would have bought if I had a few million dollars lying around…it was very colorful.

LP: And what about your home d├ęcor --Is that colorful too?

EK: No. The walls themselves are very, very plain. The artwork is the decoration.
What comes next?

EK: We don’t know.
My daughter is an art history major. She’s got her eye on what she would like to have. We will also be making decisions about the collection as a whole. As it gets bigger, something will need to happen.

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