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For the Love of Art
Kent and Vicki Logan chose interesting, relevant works they could live with, steering clear of “trophies.”
By Kyle MacMillan
  Kent Logan, Vicki Logan
Kent and Vicki Logan at their home in Vail, CO.

Kent Logan never gave any thought to art collecting until one Saturday in 1993. He had moved to San Francisco a year earlier as one of seven senior partners in Montgomery Securities, an investment bank focusing on high-tech, Internet companies, and was still getting to know the city. A business associate was planning a tour of San Francisco's fine gallery scene and asked if Logan and his wife, Vicki, would like to come along. The couple agreed and were immediately hooked, buying an artwork that very first day – a realist painting by Mark Stock. “Then, it went straight downhill from there,” Kent Logan says.

Since then, the Logans have built one of the top contemporary-art collections in the world. They own more than 900 works by 200 artists, including what they believe to be the largest private holding of contemporary Chinese art in the U.S. While most of the collection is devoted to vanguard artists of the past 15 years, about a third goes as far back as the ‘60s. Included are major examples by such blue-chip names as Ed Ruscha, Gerhard Richter and Anselm Kiefer and more than 30 pieces by Andy Warhol, the most by any one artist. Collecting has slowed, but at its peak, the couple bought more than 100 pieces a year.

Top left: Neo Rauch, Eis, 2002, oil on linen. Top right: Wang Guangyi, Face of the Believer D, 2003, oil on canvas. Bottom: Edward Ruscha, 1937-Burning Gas Station, 1965 – 66, oil on canvas.

In 1997, the Logans made a fractional gift of 300 works – all they had collected to that point – to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, with complete ownership to transfer to the institution upon their death. After Logan retired in 1999, he and his wife moved to Vail, CO, where they had gotten married atop a mountain in 1985. In 2002, the Logans built a 7,300-square-foot private museum next to their home that can display as many as 200 of their works. At the same time, the couple became involved with the Denver Art Museum, making a similarly structured gift of more than 200 artworks to the institution in 2002. Then, earlier this year, they agreed to donate the rest of their collection to the institution in conjunction with the October 7 debut of the museum's Frederic C. Hamilton Building, a $90.5-million addition. This latest gift, which will also become official upon the Logans' death, includes $15 million in cash, a $10 endowment as well as their Vail home and private museum. Highlights of the couple's collection will be shown in Radar, the main special exhibition featured as part of the addition's opening.

In an interview with Panache, Kent Logan talks about the couple's
collecting philosophy, the state of the art market and the reasons for choosing San Francisco and Denver as the repositories for their collection.

  Zhang Dali, 100 Chinese
Zhang Dali, 100 Chinese (seventeen heads), 2001, synthetic resin

Yue Minjun, Life, 1999, oil on canvas

Yinka Shonibare, Party Like It's 1999, 1999, emulsion and acrylic on textiles

  Juan Muñoz, Untitled (Six Figures)
Juan Muñoz, Untitled (Six Figures), 1998, resin and mixed media, security platform

  Yue Minjun, The Last 5,000 Years
Yue Minjun, The Last 5,000 Years, 2000, synthetic resin and acrylic paint


Denver Address Book

Brown Palace Hotel & Spa, 3211 7th Street; 303.297.3111
Hotel Monaco, 1717 Champa Street; 303.296.1717
Hotel Teatro, 1100 14th Street; 303.228.1100
Cafe Star, 3201 East Colfax Avenue; 303.320.8635
Highland's Garden Cafe, 3927 West 32nd Avenue; 303.458.5920
Luca d'Italia, 711 Grant Street; 303.832.6600
Mizuna, 225 East Seventh Avenue; 303.832.4778
Palace Arms, 3211 7th Street; 303.297.3111
Restaurant Kevin Taylor, 1100 14th Street; 303.820.2600
Rioja, 1431 Larimer Street; 303.820.2282
Somethin' Else, 1313 East Sixth Avenue; 303.831.1992



Hot DAM: Party on the Edge
Friday, October 6, 7 pm – 1 am; $150 for members, $200 for nonmembers

Hot DAM: Art at All Hours 35-Hour GRAND Opening
Saturday, October 7, 10 am – Sunday, October 8, 9 pm

The new Denver Art Museum opening celebration includes tours and events. The festivities commemorate the 35th anniversary of the Museum's North Building, designed by Gio Ponti, and the first weekend of the new Libeskind-designed Frederic C. Hamilton Building.

Selections from the Collection of Vicki and Kent Logan

October 7, 2006 – October 7, 2007

Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO

Did you know right away that you wanted to collect contemporary art?
Yes. We've always meant it to be a collection of the art of our times – by artists who are, for the most part, living and are addressing issues that confront us as a society at this particular moment – although we did reach back as far as the ‘60s. I grew up in the ‘60s, so it's still relevant in terms of our experience and the issues that we faced as a society at that particular point in time.

How did you develop the knowledge you needed for a top-level collection?
It was really getting out and just walking around, walking into galleries and engaging the dealers and the artists in conversation. I know most of the living artists in the collection – I have spoken to them. That becomes an important aspect of our decision-making. So, a lot of it is – I don't know what you call it – self-taught. For us, it's a living, breathing part of our life and what's going on.

Describe a little bit of your collecting philosophy.
Well, we've had advisers suggest that we look at this, buy that, but we've really ignored them for the most part. So, we've always said that we have to like the work because we're going to live with it, and we don't want to buy something that someone said we should have and then find out we don't like it. You can tell the difference. If I walk into a collector's home, I can tell immediately if there has been an adviser or a consultant at work, because it looks like one from Column A and one from Column B – a trophy type of collection.

How did you get started collecting Asian art?
I want to know what's behind these images, so it has always been the conceptual content that has driven my interest. In that sense, I was looking for societies that have undergone – are undergoing – major change, because I think that is very fertile ground for visual artists to work. So, it was not a large leap to get to Japan. If you think about the postwar period, no society has undergone more dramatic change than the Japanese. That led to me to Tatsuo Miyajima, who is doing the installation art in the new museum [in Denver], and [Yasumasa] Morimura. And then it was sort of a natural extension into more recent Japanese contemporary artists – [Takashi] Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara. We're the largest holders of Murakami in the world. Then it was China. Arguably the most important watershed event of this century is China taking its place in the modern world.

As you collected, was trying to be a bit ahead of the market one of your goals?
I never really tried to do that. But, as it turns out, I have been ahead. With no particular foresight, we were there collecting Young British Art before everyone else wanted it. And then I can remember going to a couple of art fairs in 2002 - 2003, and every other booth seemed to have another young German. For whatever reason, the locus of creativity was shifting to Berlin, so we bought Franz Ackermann, Thomas Scheibitz and a number of these artists before anyone cared. But it was clear to me that something was happening, just like we were collecting Neo Rauch five years ago, not today. We were collecting Neo's work when you could buy it for $20,000, and now it's $500,000. I've just sort of gone where my interests have, which has largely been dictated by where I thought interesting art was coming from.

Describe a couple of your shrewdest purchases.
I always remember the ones that got away, because I can say, how could I possibly not have done that? One of the paintings in this Radar show, the big Damien Hirst spot painting. I can always recall that there was a dealer in Chicago who said he had a friend in New York who was living in an apartment and had two enormous spot paintings, which were like 12-foot-square. He said, “I'm going to buy one. Do you want to buy one?” And I said, “How much?” I think it was $20,000. So, I bought it, and he bought his. About three months later, he called me and said, “I don't want this. It's too big. Someone's offered me $40,000, and I'm going to sell it. But if you want it, I'll sell it to you.” And I said, “What am I going to do with two large paintings that size?” That painting today is $1 million.

What are some of the risks of collecting contemporary art?
I interpret that question with a 2006 sensibility. It's with an eye toward, “Gee, if you bought something at auction for $500,000 – even though the work is by an established artist – and this really is a bubble and it goes to $200,000, that's quite a risk you've undertaken.” That's why I haven't been active in these last couple of years as I was, because I think the market is very inflated. I think there are some very fine artists who are selling for very inflated prices; and, in fact, I made the statement to some other aspiring collectors, that I bet anything you like today, you will be able to buy cheaper in five years. Another way to look at risk in collecting contemporary art is the fact that I buy contemporary art fully expecting that two thirds of it will not be important in 20 years. But think about it: If a third of it is, they pay baseball players millions of dollars to bat .300.

Why did you decide to donate your collection to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Denver Art Museum?
There are a lot of museums that will take your art, but, in fact, will it be the catalyst for change? The answer in many cases is no. Give it to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which already has a fabulous collection, so it has another 20 to 50 to 100 pieces. It doesn't really change the perception of that collection, and it doesn't allow that museum to do something differently. With Denver and San Francisco, it really changed the context in which the museum's collection was viewed.

Left: Franz Ackermann, B 1 (Barbeque with the Duke), 1999, oil on canvas. Right: Damien Hirst, Do you know what I like about you? 1994, gloss household paint and butterflies on canvas.
Kyle MacMillan has been the art critic of the Denver Post for six years and has freelanced for such publications as Artforum and ARTnews.
Photo credit
Image 1, Tom McCarthy/Vail Valley Portraits; all others, Collection of Vicki and Kent Logan
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