"Coming from the point of view of a passionate collector, the Pizzuti Collection seeks to present art by underrepresented voices from around the globe with work that transcends, elevates the mind and expresses freedoms. The Pizzuti Collection shares the belief of its founder that art is fundamental to the individual and the cultural health of a community. It feeds the spirit, challenges the mind and stimulates thought."
How much better can it get? This is the mission statement of The Pizzuti Collection, just opened on the 6th and 7th of September in Columbus. Ron and Ann Pizzuti have been collecting contemporary art for decades and have just launched a venue—a handsomely restored, three-story, neoclassical building—for rotating shows of their treasures.
|632 North Park Street, Columbus, Ohio: The Pizzuti Collection|
The building, opposite lovely Goodale Park, situated among the Victorian dwellings of the chic Short North neighborhood, has a European air about it that places it in piquant contrast to Ohio's other architecture-driven venues for contemporary art. Neither Ohio State's Wexner Center for the Arts (Peter Eisenman, 1989), Cincinnati's Contemporary Arts Center (Zaha Hadid, 2003), and the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (Farshid Moussavi, 2012) has a permanent collection, but each schedules exhibitions curated locally or elsewhere and traveling. The Pizzuti—with its traditional painted iron fence, fine pea stone sculpture garden, and symmetrical facade—offers us a unique invitation to get close to works over the long term. Through them, we will come to know the collector's thought and sensibilities: That in itself should reveal to the patient observer a good deal about contemporary art.
For the opening, the Collection's director and curator, Rebecca Ibel, has
organized Cuban Forever, a show of
fifteen Cuban artists. Some have been working since the time of the Revolution (Tony Mendez, recently retired from Ohio State) and some are up-to-the-minute artists—Raul Cordero and Alexandre Arrechea, both of whom spoke in an inaugural panel. Some immerse themselves in the timeless look of
Havana (Michael Eastman) and others demonstrate interests that are entirely cosmopolitan or theoretical.
Douglas Perez (b. 1972)Ladacar III, 2010 Oil on canvas
88 1/2 x 63 in.
Kosmaj Toy, 2012
wood, metal and LEGO® bricks
98 1/8 x 98 1/8 x 98 1/8 in.
The Inaugural Show itself includes some of the Pizzutis' earliest and dearest acquisitions, even a few moved directly from their house. These include works by well-known masters Frank Stella, Louise Nevelson, Jean Dubuffet, John Chamberlain, and Richard Tuttle.
But what do all these names mean if you don't know their work already? The Old Masters of contemporary art remain unknown or inexplicable to many. Of course, the Old Masters of the Dutch 17th century are just as mysterious to most, but, being representational, they puzzle and irk us less obviously. We don't feel the mixture of hostility and embarrassment that contemporary art induces in its apparent opacity.
It feeds the spirit, challenges the mind and stimulates thought.
My opening day experience of the Pizzuti Collection was wholly satisfying. After about an hour—more than enough time spent inside any museum or gallery—I stepped back into the flow of life on Park Street feeling my body and brains in dizzy tumult. I was boiling with outrage, contempt, laughter, scorn, puzzlement, frustration. I had even conceived a crush or two. I was seeing red—and neon pink, and jungle camouflage. My head ached.
And I can't wait to go back! I'll take this collection as it invites us to take it: slowly, a piece or two at a time. Because contemporary art comes from so many directions, with so many premises, concepts, and styles, no one should be able to do a walk-through and leave feeling unexercised, mentally or emotionally. In passing I saw works I thought were simplistic or disposable; I saw others that I could lose myself in for an afternoon, and some that made me woozy with wonder. A few made no sense at all to me: I felt no connection of any sort. Next time, I'll feel compelled to take those on as a detective approaches a case, or as a fighter circles a crafty opponent in the ring.
The biggest thing about my hour at the Pizzuti opening was coming out feeling such strong, conflicted, elevated, engaged emotions. I wanted to argue, to make someone to explain; to steam open elusive works until their mysteries arose, vaporously, above them.
|Dave Cole (b. 1975), American Flag (Lead), 2012. Lead sheet and stainless steel cable, handsewn. 28 x 52 1/2 in.|
Agitation of any nature is a fine outcome for a visit to an art museum. We too routinely expect a museum visit to parallel a visit to a garden where all is comely and beautifully arranged. We expect to leave unruffled and uplifted in a general way, untroubled by challenges to our world-views.
Contemporary art isn’t a poke in the eye. It’s not an insult. But it reflects how someone else in our world is dealing with an issue in and of the times we share. In most cases, we already recognize the artist’s topic and materials.
Through the time we spend with contemporary art we can pause to be citizens of the world, to involve ourselves momentarily in ideas, visions, and points of view we'd hasten by on the street. Will such encounters always make us happy in the moment? Not necessarily. But our passions and our eyes awaken in a structured place where our minds are sharpened. Does it make us happier in the aftermath, to be surprised with wonder and beauty of the unexpected? To be roughed up by the outre; to be electrified or amused by the unlikely? Absolutely.
Welcome to our city's new playground; to its new cloister; to its half-way house for philosophers and punks. Thank you to the Pizzutis for sharing their purchases with the city and the world; for knowing the real value of art which, wisely invested in the lives of all their lucky neighbors, creates and enriches a thinking community.
All photographs courtesy of The Pizzuti Collection.