EN­HANC­ING THE HOME

The art­work in the Los An­ge­les home of Lois and Richard Neiter re­flects their eclec­tic aes­thetic and their knowl­edge of art.

American Art Collector - - Contents - By John O’Hern

Lois and Richard Neiter bought their first piece of art on their hon­ey­moon in Italy. “It was a ‘Eu­rope on $5 a day’ hon­ey­moon,” Richard re­calls. “We went to a lot of mu­se­ums,” Lois says, “but we weren’t think­ing of col­lect­ing.” They saw a mi­cro­mo­saic by a Floren­tine trades­man that cap­tured them, how­ever, and they de­cided to buy it. They couldn’t af­ford the $150 price and the dealer re­fused to bar­gain. Af­ter tour­ing else­where they re­turned to the gallery, which agreed to let the cou­ple have the piece for $5 a month.

When their chil­dren had grad­u­ated from col­lege, they be­gan to collect se­ri­ously. Lois, who had been a teacher, be­came a dealer, dis­play­ing art in their home and its 1-acre man­i­cured gar­den to give peo­ple a sense of what it is like to live with art. Richard dec­o­rated his Los An­ge­les cham­bers as a U.S. bank­ruptcy judge with ex­am­ples of fine art.

They moved to a con­do­minium five years ago, which doesn’t per­mit com­mer­cial busi­ness and which didn’t have a space for their out­door art. Lois has be­come a con­sul­tant and a for­tu­itous en­counter solved the prob­lem of many of the out­door pieces.

Vis­it­ing the Crocker Art Mu­seum in Sacra­mento, they were given a tour by Scott Shields, the mu­seum’s as­so­ciate di­rec­tor and chief cu­ra­tor. They men­tioned to him that they were mov­ing. “We told him we had a num­ber of pieces we couldn‘t take with us and they de­serve to be in a place where the pub­lic can see them,” Richard re­lates. “Scott told us the mu­seum was plan­ning to de­velop a

sculp­ture park and the pieces could have a home there. We later do­nated the out­door pieces as well as a cou­ple of in­door pieces.”

Their home then and now is open to mu­seum tour groups from around the coun­try. “We’ve trav­eled with these groups vis­it­ing pri­vate col­lec­tions and some­times hav­ing din­ner with col­lec­tors and their fam­i­lies,” Richard says. “Since my back­ground is in teach­ing,” Lois ex­plains, “I use the op­por­tu­nity to ed­u­cate. We’ve also never turned down a mu­seum ex­hi­bi­tion. When a gallery ar­ranges a loan from our col­lec­tion, we re­quest a ‘place holder’ that will fit our aes­thetic while the piece is away. Our por­trait of Proust by R.B. Ki­taj is out on loan and we tem­po­rar­ily have a Ge­org Baselitz from LA Lou­ver.”

“Our aes­thetic is quite eclec­tic,” she notes. “At first we were drawn to three­d­i­men­sional work and in the early ’80s were drawn to the New York school of ab­stract ex­pres­sion­ism. It be­gan to be­come very ex­pen­sive and we’ve since sold many of the pieces from that pe­riod. We then be­came in­ter­ested in the ab­stract ex­pres­sion­ists of the ’50s and ’60s in the Bay Area and be­gan ex­pand­ing from there. We also found that the beauty we found in ab­stract ex­pres­sion­ism could be found in other forms.” There are a num­ber of works in the col­lec­tion that re­flect the cou­ple’s pro­found so­cial con­scious­ness. “The work we found at­tracted us in­tel­lec­tu­ally and emo­tion­ally and had a real im­pact on us.” The story of one of them il­lus­trates their ap­proach to col­lect­ing as well as that in­tel­lec­tual and emo­tional at­trac­tion. Lois re­lates, “We were at a gallery and I saw Ali­son Saar’s Un­der­tow. Richard was some­where else in the gallery. I walked up to it and walked around it. The gallery di­rec­tor came over and said, ‘Pretty great piece isn’t it?’ I replied that I was just blown away emo­tion­ally and had such a con­nec­tion to it. I knew Ali­son is the daugh­ter of

Be­tye Saar, the great black artist and knew their fam­ily his­tory. The woman in the sculp­ture rep­re­sents all the black women pulled down by the un­der­tow of life. She is now stand­ing up­right and at the end of each strand of hair is a bot­tle of hair straight­ener with a note in­side. I told the di­rec­tor, ‘Put that on hold!’ and ran and got Richard. When he saw it, he asked, ‘What do you see in it?’ I got elo­quent and told him it is the story of black women and their strug­gles. I said, ‘In many ways it’s the story of women…pe­riod.’ Richard said, ‘We’ll buy it, honey.’”

The Neit­ers fol­low artists, trav­el­ing around the world to art fairs and ex­hi­bi­tions to keep up with their work—even fol­low­ing artists they can’t af­ford.

“We have three An­thony Caro’s from three dif­fer­ent pe­ri­ods of his work,” Lois ex­plains. “We went to his stu­dio in Lon­don and saw cur­rent and ear­lier pieces. We later went to his dealer An­dré Em­merich’s farm and saw other work.

“We had been fol­low­ing John Cham­ber­lain, whose work we adored but the size and ex­pense put it out of reach,” she con­tin­ues. “Then he started do­ing smaller pieces. Our tim­ing was per­fect. We ac­quired Ex­hausted Ex­pert and had the op­por­tu­nity to talk with him about it.”

Their re­search and deep fa­mil­iar­ity with the work of younger artists some­times brings un­ex­pected re­sults. They had seen the work of Ga­jin Fu­jita in a stu­dent ex­hi­bi­tion at Univer­sity of Ne­vada Las Ve­gas and had talked with critic Dave Hickey about it. “I liked the work im­me­di­ately,” Lois says. “Richard, not so much. I was at LA Lou­ver in Los An­ge­les one day and saw a paint­ing in the di­rec­tor’s of­fice wrapped in brown pa­per with a cor­ner slightly ripped open. I asked, ‘Is that a Fu­jita?’ He told me Dave Hickey had sent it over and he hadn’t had a chance to open it. I loved it. Ga­jin blends Edo art with Licht­en­stein and other mod­ern art move­ments as well as graf­fiti. Richard be­came con­vinced and we bought it that day. Ga­jin lives in East LA where Richard grew up and we’ve de­vel­oped a close friend­ship.”

Lois ex­plains that she thought it was im­por­tant to ac­quire the artists she rep­re­sented. “It in­stilled trust both ways,” she says. “We’ve had amaz­ing re­la­tions with the artists I rep­re­sented—much like a fam­ily— and there is the beau­ti­ful art we bought as well as the gifts they gave us. It’s such an en­hance­ment in our lives to be in­volved with the creative mind.”

2On the desk are Gwynn Mur­rill’s Eagle Tro­phy #4, 2006, bronze, and Suzye Ogawa’s Ki­mono, 2010, bronze and mixed me­dia. The paint­ing above them is The Meet­ing, 1953, oil on can­vas, by Emer­son Woelf­fer (1914-2003). In the hall is Matt Wedell’s Gold Poo­dle, 2010, ce­ramic with glaze. Above it is Self Por­trait, 1942, oil on pa­per, by Hans Hof­mann (1880-1966).3On the left in the liv­ing room is Un­ti­tled, 1957, oil on can­vas, by John Sac­caro (1913-1981). On the cof­fee ta­ble are Book of Lies #3, 2004, cop­per, pa­per and mixed me­dia, by Eu­ge­nia But­ler (19472008), and Un­ti­tled, 1972, glass and cop­per, by Claire Falken­stein (1908-1997). Frag­ment-Lise, 1978-80, painted bronze with fab­ric, by Robert Gra­ham (1938-2008), is in the left cor­ner. The large print is Frank Stella’s, La Pena di Hu, 1988, etch­ing, wood block, aquatint, screen­print on hand­made pa­per. In the right cor­ner is Manuel Neri’s, Squat­ting Woman, 1981, painted bronze. Be­tween the arm­chairs is Matt Eskuche’s Life Styles of the Rich and Fa­mous VI, 2010, sil­ver ni­trate glass.4On the left in the din­ing room is David Bates’ Ka­t­rina 2, 2005-06, oil on can­vas, and James Havard’s Woman, 1990, oil on can­vas.

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8 8In the en­try is Jonathan Lasker’s Hid­den Identity, 2009, oil on linen, and David Bates’ Mag­no­lias, 2006, oil on can­vas.

9In the den are Adler, 1979, gouache on pa­per, by Ge­org Baselitz, which is on loan from LA Lou­ver, and Ex­hausted Ex­pert, 2003, steel with paint, by John Cham­ber­lain (1927-2011).10In the den are Loukas, 1989, burlap, resin fig­ure on iron seat, by Mag­dalena Abakanow­icz (1930-2017); James Havard’s African Pup­peter, 1997, oil and wax on panel; and Yayoi Kusama’s Five Pump­kins, 2002, porce­lain.11Lois and Richard Neiter sit in front of Homage to Miro, 1960, oil on can­vas, by Emer­son Woelf­fer (1914-2003).9

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