COLLECTING FROM THE HEART
INTO THE ARPADS HOME
Being invited into the Arpads home, one would never assume you were entering the world filled with a lifetime of collecting. Walking through the front doors into a dark foyer, unable to discern what was around me, it was impossible to imagine what lied ahead. Knowing I was about to be greeted by a husband and wife who had been described to me the most welcoming people one could ever meet, who had a vast history in the elite Washington DC art and antiques community, I was anxious to share stories of our adventures on the East Coast and see where our paths and interests had crossed along the way
Meeting Diana or D, as she likes to be called was like meeting a volcano of hospitality. I’m not sure I’d ever been welcomed into a home of someone I did not know or someone who did not know me and made feel so at home. Her husband, Sheldon, reluctantly looked on. I’m not a wilting violet myself so I decided to engage him. With only the knowledge of where he hailed from, I mentioned that I was now involved in a project in Maryland. That laid the groundwork for “well tell me about it.” As I come to find out, Sheldon is a curious man with a passion for history. I start to share about a historic steam tug, The Baltimore, and her dilemma being restored as a Federal Landmark. The rest is history and art history so to speak all puns intended. From that moment on, Sheldon and I couldn’t leave each other’s side nor could be stop swapping stories.
While D attended to all her guests with the energy she welcomed me, neither Sheldon nor I moved from the spot we met in the kitchen. I honestly never even saw or noticed the expansive river views of the Caloosahatchee that were right behind my back. This impassioned conversation about tugboats led our discussion to the works of great American harbor scene painters; the likes of Fitz Hugh Lane, Reginald Marsh and Alfred Steiglitz, all I would soon discover hanging on their walls “Come with me CR, I’d like to show you one of my favorites.” Not knowing what that meant, I’m always excited to see anyone’s “favorite” and learn something new. Being led back into the dark Grand Entry Foyer, I followed my host. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any more pitch black, as they say, “Let there be light.” Placing his hand on the master switch, a walnut parquay hall that was seemingly endless to the point of no return was revealed. When I looked up, I felt as if I entered both the Frick and Whitney Museum in NYC. The sight was so jaw dropping, for an art historian and appreciator like myself, I was left speechless the way someone must feel when they win Lotto or are told they are having quadruplets. There was no way I could absorb what I was looking at so I did what only one could do, look at nothing and let Sheldon lead me to his destination.
Together, Sheldon and D have learned to live with art and their uniquely different styles of collecting. While Sheldon from his earliest childhood was surrounded by art and antiques frequently loaned to the White House or the Smithsonian, D’s passion for art comes from meeting new artists, learning of their inspiration and taking a personal role in their development. One could say D collects from the heart. “I want to fell the heart of the artist in each work, understand what they thinking while they made each brushstroke, and their original inspiration. The more I know about the artist helps me to love the work more deeply and be able to share its message with others.” D When discussing their collection and how they like to display it, Sheldon believes “that art is like furniture and meant to be moved.” He views his collection as organic, finding new places to discover in their home or office. “Some art finds a home and never leaves its desired location while others shift according to how the house is being designed or redesigned.” As D collects from the heart, Sheldon curates from the heart. The rooms in their home all have their own personality based upon the collection being featured. They range from the his and hers viewing hallways known as the East and West Wings. Sheldon’s hall tells a story of American Art History from the past two centuries. D’s hall represents the birth of the turn of the 19th century modernism until today. There is special “Jewel Box” all mirrored room where a few family treasures are featured; a game room filled with D’s love sports memorabilia to the Adirondack Room displaying 17th century English furniture with a collection of wildlife and botanicals. The kitchen is as happy as the couple filled with joyous “POP” contemporary art. Whether speaking to Sheldon or D about their home, it couldn’t be more obvious that their love and respect for art and artists, who adorn their walls, floors, display cabinets and tables, is genuinely coming from the heart. Their passion is transparent. Their willingness to share their stories and their collection as well as giving back to the art community abounds. This is not a home. This not a museum. What I witnessed was a couple who truly collects from the heart, each have huge hearts of their own directed at the preservation of great art and offering the support and encouragement to nurture the lives of living artists.