It’s in the hallway, the spare room, the kitchen, the bathroom, the bedroom, the living room and more — there is no room in Alan Polsky’s condo without art. In addition to the beautiful view of downtown Minneapolis, every wall in the space boasts a unique and carefully selected image. Polsky, member of the Patron’s Circle and Collectors’ Council at the Walker and board chair of Midway Contemporary Art, recently welcomed the Contemporaries to his home to view this great collection and discuss how it came to be.
It all began with a missed opportunity — a gorgeous Louise Bourgeois painting at a modest price — that Polsky still seems to somewhat regret. In art collecting however, there will always be the one that got away. Yet Polsky explained that the learning curve in this endeavor is entirely personal: you learn what works for you as you view and collect the art. Each choice informs the next, each purchase helping you understand the previous. The decisions he has been least satisfied with are those which were focused on money. While he buys and resells some art, Polsky finds he is most satisfied with the art he buys when the focus is not on the cost or promise of future profit. The value of an artwork on the market can greatly increase in a short period of time, but how a person feels about it usually does not. This model of intuition over investment has proved successful for Polsky and he is pleased with his current collection.
Polsky’s collection is also one that is tailored to his location, with many local artists represented in his home. A Jay Heikes work over the fireplace should be familiar to many in Minneapolis: his work was featured in the recent Walker exhibition Painter Painter. Combined with the names of Ed Ruscha and Carl Andre, every work in the space is world-class. German artists are a theme, and paintings are most common, for reasons both aesthetic and practical. There is a reason sculpture is most often displayed in museums and parks, the literal size of it is quite a hindrance. Polsky expressed that he honestly wouldn’t know what to do with a sculpture if he acquired one.
The works hanging in Polsky’s condo are only a portion of his collection. With limited space, he chooses and places artwork in almost every corner but without doing any of them injustice. A condo is a place of domesticity and living compared with the more impersonal environment of a museum and over time, what hangs on the wall can be overlooked. So this year he had the works rearranged throughout the apartment with the help of John Rasmussen, Executive Director of Midway Contemporary Art. Other complications must be considered in hanging a personal collection, such as the color of the walls, fireplaces, and the steam created in a bathroom. Polsky’s walls are all white, although that isn’t a requirement. He does not use his fireplace, as the Heikes above it would surely become more contorted than the artist intended. These unusual considerations in a living space, however, are a reminder that art can and should exist in more intimate spaces than museums. Spaces like the Walker allow for the public to share in the fantastic history and present of modern and contemporary art, yet few people interact with an Ed Ruscha with such intimacy. Living with art in the home may currently be a luxury for most, but perhaps should be a necessity.
At the end of the evening, Polsky showed us the first work he ever bought: a simple and elegant set of three images, framed together in birch. Compared with some of the large and well-known paintings on his walls now, it seems a humble beginning — and a reminder that every collector starts somewhere.