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Interview with Peter Hort, art powerhouse of the Rema Hort Mann Foundation

Peter Hort
Peter Hort used with permission

Peter Hort is a savvy contemporary art collector on the Board of Directors of the renowned Rema Hort Mann Foundation. As a New York attorney specializing in fine arts law, he also represents leading artists, galleries and collectors. We had a golden opportunity to interview this powerhouse in the contemporary art world.

Peter was one of the original organizers of the Rema Hort Mann Foundation. This respected Foundation has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to artists such as Sarah Sze, Kehinde Wiley, Dana Schultz and many others. Peter's contemporary art collection includes the early works of Fred Tomaselli, Nicole Eisenman, Cindy Sherman and Tim Rollins.

Besides his own impressive collection, Peter Hort is a scion and heir to one of the most significant collections of contemporary art, the Hort Family Collection. The collection was formed by Susan and Michael Hort, recognized by ArtNews as one of the top 200 collectors in the world. The collection includes over 2,500 artworks by major contemporary artists including Franz Ackermann, John Currin, Marlene Dumas and many others.

On a personal note, Peter is one half of the art world power couple with his wife Jamie Cohen Hort. The couple and their four children have resided in lower Manhattan since 1999. Peter took time out of his hectic schedule to talk to us about the Hort Family Collection, choosing contemporary art, the Rema Hort Mann Foundation and more.

Please tell us more about the background and development of the Hort Family Collection.

My mother, Susan Hort, grew up around art. When I was young, my parents collected turn of the century American art. At some point while expanding her art education, my mother was introduced to Jack Tilton. He introduced my mother to the Italian artist named Paolo Icaro. Paolo’s work is the first piece of contemporary art that my parents bought. He actually came over to our house in Westchester with Jack for dinner. As my father said years later, “The art was interesting, but he was fantastic.” Paolo was energetic, and everyone was drawn to him. After dinner that first piece of contemporary art my parents purchased was taken out of the box. From my perspective, it was strange. My love for contemporary art did not come until later.

My parents allowed Paolo to choose the placement for the piece. He scoured the house for the perfect spot to hang the work. We had ample wall space – over the fire place, in the living room – but he was looking for something in particular. In a back room with a high ceiling and plenty of windows, he chose his spot. My father and I had to go to fetch a ladder. It seemed to me that everyone, except Paolo, was skeptical of the placement of the work, but as we were returning with the ladder, my father reminded me that we can always move it later. The next morning we realized the importance of the placement. In the early morning as the sun rose, the shards of glass that shoot out from the piece glowed like they were on fire. Paolo wasn’t just being peculiar; he was looking for a spot to highlight the work thinking about how the work interacted with the space.

My parents never bought another piece of turn of the century American art. From here on in it was only emerging contemporary art, and it didn’t take long for their children to join in. When my parents began to cover over perfectly good windows in order to have more wall space, I knew that they had contracted the art collecting bug.

How has your ongoing exposure to art motivated and inspired you?

On the most basic level, my exposure to the art world – the objects, the people, and the ideas - has opened my mind to reassess the accepted norms of the world around me. I am constantly awed by an artist that sees the world, something that I may see every day, in a totally new light. Every day looking at various pieces of art reminds me that I should look at the entire world and reconsider things that I might not otherwise think of. It has added a whole new dimension to my outlook and life. I only hope that the unique way of looking at things may have rubbed off on me during my years in the art world.

As an attorney and judge, can you share a few important legalities art buyers and sellers should keep in mind?

As a lawyer, I would say, keep everything. Don’t throw anything away. One day this may be used to authenticate a piece. There should be a clear, traceable path from artist to owner, and it should be documented: save invoices, proof of payment and receipts. If you eventually want to sell a work, it’s important to have this documentation.

What sage advice can you offer a novice art enthusiast who is looking to build a viable collection?

First of all, buy what you love. Don’t follow the trends, follow your own path and be confident in your purchase. Get educated. I always feel that the more you know about a piece, the more meaningful it is. Oftentimes, the work of art is not just an object, it’s about an idea. The better understanding you have about the motivations and story behind an artwork, the richer and interesting the piece can be.

Above all though, enjoy the process – finding, collecting and sharing. If you are not enjoying the process, then perhaps you are doing something wrong.

Before you even start though, make sure to do your research. Open yourself to new things and figure out what type of art you like, and the best way to do this is to see a lot of art. Visit museums and galleries, talk to other collectors and artists; try to familiarize yourself with various periods, mediums and styles.

What are your preferred art education resources?

The fact is the more immersed you are in the art world, the more information you acquire. Talk to people – artists, gallerists, other art collectors and art consultants. I really like going to some of the smaller art fairs. I really liked the Dallas Art Fair last year. There was great work and was manageable. You really got a chance to talk to people without the mad frenzy that often accompanies and art fair.

The art world can be overwhelming at times and speaking to experts is the best way to navigate your way through your first time purchase.

How can buyers find budding artists whose work may be likely to achieve future success?

I really like keeping an eye out for what some of the cultural non-profit spaces are looking at. Whether it be White Columns or the Rema Hort Mann Foundation, very often they are focusing on artists that haven’t made it mainstream yet, but often will. I also find that finding new artists through other artists whose eye I admire is a great help in finding new things.

What are a few of your favorite galleries and artistic venues from NYC to the Hamptons?

There are almost too many to mention.The key for me is not if they show one artist that I may like; it is if I like their overall program. On the Lower East Side, I like Untitled on Orchard Street, and Lisa Colley, James Fuentes, Nicelle Beauchene, Team Gallery, Brennan & Griffin, Invisible Exports, Stephan Stoyanov, Taymour Granhne, Joe Sheftel and Rachel Uffner… just to name a few.

When in Brooklyn, I like Pierogi, Cleopatra’s, Rawson Projects, Real Fine Arts, Interstate Projects, Slag Contemporary, 247365 and Clearing.

In the Hamptons, I like Halsey McKay’s program.

That was harder than I thought! I am sure I left out a few.

Please tell us more about the Rema Hort Mann Foundation and how it supports emerging artists.

The Rema Hort Mann Foundation was established to honor my sister’s life and her love for art. The foundation awards a number of art grants each year to artists who show real promise and are unrepresented, never had a solo show in a for profit gallery and not in art school. The Foundation's goal is to provide assistance at a crucial moment in these artists' careers that allows them to fully focus on their work. But oftentimes the monetary award granted is less important than vote of confidence given to the artist. Most of the recipients have gone on to be represented by major galleries and housed in a number of public and private American and International collections. Our alumni of past grant recipients include well respected artists such Sarah Sze (1997), Kehinde Wiley (2002), Dana Schutz (2002), Keltie Ferris (2006), as well as Mickalene Thomas (2007),Virginia Overton (2011), and Korakrit Arunanondchai (2012), to name a few.

New works are now available to benefit the Rema Hort Mann Foundation. To learn more, browse the Foundation's website or visit the Rema Hort Mann Foundation located on the Ground Floor at 153 Hudson Street in New York City.

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