This article, written by collector Anita Reiner’s daughter, Renee Reiner, was first published by Christie’s in May 2014 and is reposted here in three parts in conjunction with the exhibition A Tribute To Anita Reiner, on view at the Phillips through Jan. 4, 2015. Read Part 1 here. We welcome others to share their own anecdotes about this legendary collector or contribute comments about the installation honoring her.
Anita’s friend Wendy wrote of her early years: “When a painting or a sculpture spoke to Anita, she embraced it. A serendipitous encounter at The Phillips Collection in the early years of her quest to learn about modern art was instrumental in shaping the open-minded attitude that ultimately guided her collecting philosophy. While looking inquisitively at the newly installed paintings by Mark Rothko in the early 1960s, she was approached by an elderly gentleman—as she told it—who asked her what she thought. To which she mumbled an indifferent reply. The man told her: ‘Young lady, you always have to meet new art half way.’ She never forgot those words. The man, she subsequently learned, was Duncan Phillips.”
It was in 1967 that Anita purchased her first piece of art. It came from Leo Castelli and cost $540. (She asked for, and received, a 10% discount off of the $600 price.) It was Andy Warhol’s Black on Black self-portrait. We—Anita’s four children—still love this piece and intend to rotate it from house to house in future years.
A few years later, on one of her New York visits, Anita stopped a man on the street and asked, “Did you just have your portrait painted?” When he said yes, she returned to the Bykert Gallery where she had been watching Chuck Close paint Nat, his father-in-law, and purchased this painting while the paint was still wet. Just a few years ago, Mom was thrilled to be able to gift this piece to the National Gallery of Art.
Other artists that became part of Anita’s early collection included Larry Bell, Robert Rauschenberg, Jim Dine, John Salt, Don Eddy, Claes Oldenburg, Duane Hanson, Kenneth Nolan, and Ralph Goings. Says friend Steve, “Her collection was a side effect of her passion. She had a good, confident eye. She knew what moved her. Her taste was amazing.” Anita was never afraid of challenging art: quite the opposite, actually. “She wasn’t afraid to buy tough work,” says Steve.