Ron Pizzuti is not easily intimidated. A successful real estate developer, Pizzuti possesses the perfect combination of tenacity and charm, with a straightforward nature that quickly fosters a sense of familiarity; traits that have undoubtedly contributed to the tremendous growth and reach of the company he founded nearly 40 years ago. However, the notoriously tough real estate industry, Pizzuti learned long ago, has nothing on the art world.
From his earliest days in development, Pizzuti traveled - a lot. “I got tired of going to bars and cathedrals,” Ron says with a smile. “So, I wandered into a museum while on a trip to Europe.” He loved that first experience so much, Pizzuti started exploring museums and galleries in every city he visited. “Walking into an art gallery was like nothing I had ever experienced,” he continues. “Gallery owners and their staff would take one look at me, and go back to whatever they were reading. I couldn’t get the time of day. It was incredibly intimidating.”
Not too many galleries would make the same mistake today. Recognized as one of the most influential contemporary art collectors of the 21st Century, Pizzuti is on a first-name basis with the biggest names in the industry. With more than 2,000 works in his collection, Pizzuti has logged countless hours pursuing his passion. Pizzuti attributes his keen eye and depth of knowledge to one thing: research. “I don’t play golf,” he explains. “I go to art fairs, museums and shops.”
Pizzuti’s current (and longest-running) passion is 21st Century art specifically. “We don’t do 20th Century,” he laughs. Researching emerging artists, Pizzuti carefully studies each one before adding works to the collection. What does he consider important? Their education, background and influence. Pizzuti takes every opportunity to get to know artists personally, but he adds, “first and foremost, an artist must be able to draw.”
When describing why he buys a work of art, Pizzuti uses descriptors that cross any genre of collecting: movement, balance, proportion, color. “I just buy what makes me smile,” he says with a grin. “People often ask, how should I invest in art? And, I always answer - you shouldn’t. This isn’t an investment in the financial sense. If that’s your motivation, you shouldn’t be buying.”
Pizzuti took his interest in art to another level when he decided several years ago to create a nonprofit organization aimed at fostering cultural understanding and educational exchange through an exposure to art. The Pizzuti Collection launched in September of 2013 in a historic office building in the Short North Arts District of Columbus, Ohio. The PC (as it is known to insiders) presents temporary exhibitions of contemporary art from the collection of Ron and his wife, Ann. This ambitious project has added to Pizzuti’s track record of success. Adam Weinberg, Director of The Whitney Museum of American Art, said of the PC, “This singular collection, comprised of renowned masters and emerging talent, is a great gift to the local community and an exciting addition to the national and international art landscape.”
His advice to anyone interested in starting a collection? Immerse yourself in the collecting genre that most interests you. See as many examples as you can - in person. Go to galleries, auctions, and shows. Don’t buy at first - just absorb and experience. Read, then read some more. “The ads are important as the stories,” Pizzuti says. “I take every art magazine I can find, and I read them cover to cover.”
The intimidation Ron once felt when beginning this collecting journey is no longer a factor for even the youngest of the now multi-generational Pizzuti clan. Recently one of the Pizzuti grandchildren asked for a spot among the renowned artists on display in the Pizzuti Collection. “Papa, if I made you a picture, would you hang it in the museum?” inquired the 8-year old artist. The response? “Only if you sign it.” One of the only permanent installations in the PC gallery, young Nathan’s drawing is mounted just outside his Papa’s office.
As we wrapped up our interview, Ron leaned toward me and, in a moment of magnanimity, almost whispered “you know, we really started our buying at Garth’s when we were young. Ann and I would sit for hours, buying Asian porcelains - and we still have them today. It was entertainment!” Entertainment is visiting with a true collector, whose spirit and enthusiasm is nothing short of infectious.
Plan a visit to the Pizzuti Collection: visit www.pizzuticollection.org or call (614) 280-4004 for a schedule of upcoming exhibits.