The Collector

2007, Movie, NR, 62 mins


Affectionate and slight, Olympia Stone's tribute to her late father, art collector and dealer Allan Stone, suggests that serious collecting is an addiction.

Actually, Stone himself cheerfully characterizes his eccentric acquisitiveness as a sickness: He got sucked into collecting "kind of like a junkie would get sucked into a heroin parlor." Stone appeared destined for more conventional things: A Harvard-trained lawyer, he married young and quickly became a father. But Stone didn't like practicing law. He liked art, especially contemporary American art. He bought his first drawing, a small Willem de Kooning, while he was still a student. Stone started advising artists about legal matters, and in return got the best advice of his life from none other than Elaine de Kooning, who suggested he become an art dealer. Stone's father called him a bum, but his wife, Maggie, was supportive. Stone opened his first gallery in 1960, filling it with stuff he liked, from tribal fetish figures to abstract expressionist paintings.

Stone's business plan was instinct, and he was blessed with a good eye. In 1962 he agreed to represent the then-unknown Wayne Thibaud, a 40-year-old painter whose delicate, colorful portraits of cakes, pies and other sweets had failed to impress better-known dealers. Thibaud's first show caught a rising wave — pop art. Stone eventually left Maggie for gallery employee Claire Chester, who became his second wife and the filmmaker's mother. He moved his gallery twice, each time occupying a larger space, and relocated his family from a Manhattan apartment to a rambling house in Westchester County, the better to accommodate his ever-multiplying personal acquisitions. Olympia tries to impose order on a loosely shaped series of interviews with and about her dad via voice-over narration, but her trivial, self-absorbed musings only make the film seem more like an accomplished home movie than a serious documentary. When Olympia presses him about his obsessive need to own things — from cigar-store Indians to African masks — he demurs. "I don't like to pull a flower out of the ground to see why it's growing," he says, and refuses to examine the subject further. And that's that. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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