MY aging in-laws are trying to decide what to do with their collection of contemporary art. Among the hundred artists who created these 300 works, the painter Friedel Dzubas has the biggest reputation. Though the late German émigré did not achieve the fame of his friends Jackson Pollock and Helen Frankenthaler, his works are sought by some collectors, and are handled by a New York gallery. My in-laws, Dan and Ruth Frishman, also own serigraphs by Josef Albers, Walter Darby Bannard, and Jules Olitski, and a lithograph by Sam Francis. Like the Dzubas paintings, these will be sold without much difficulty. It's the rest of the collection that presents the challenge.
Over the past few years my husband, Bob, and I have approached auctioneers and gallery owners with the Frishmans' long printed list. All said the same thing: The art, which was produced in the 1950s through the 1970s, is "too new." Worse, most of the artists aren't "listed" -- that is, they don't appear in the multi-volume Benezit and other standard reference books, or on artprice.com and other Web sites that publish brief biographies of artists and their auction records. Often without even looking at the works, many of these dealers declined them. They have seen many such collections. It is a secret question of collecting: What does one do with art that is no longer wanted?
More than once Bob and I have moved the collection for Dan and Ruth, and the experience has made us aware of art as something other than expressions of the human spirit. It is that but it is also stuff -- stuff that must be schlepped like anything else with dimensions, weight, volume, and sharp corners. On the day we hauled 200 pieces to a basement vault in a former bank building, Bob eyed a Dumpster in the alleyway. "It's conveniently located," he said, as we wearily brought in one more load. Some of the canvases were too big for our van. We lugged them through the streets.