Joy, Love and Peace: The Peter B. Lewis Collection will be held 7 March.
NEW YORK - In both his professional and personal lives, Peter Lewis did things his own way. Likewise, his art collection reflects Peter’s fiercely independent spirit, bold risk-taking and great passion for human creativity. He moved through life with a strong will and relentless determination, but perhaps the quality that best describes Peter is his thoughtful generosity. He famously finished his speeches and signed off every letter and e-mail (no matter how serious) with his wishes for: ”Joy, Love and Peace.” This phrase became his trademark, a concise philosophy that explains his success across every endeavor he pursued.
Whenever I met with Peter in one of his many art-filled homes – most frequently in his Central Park West apartment, but also in Aspen, Cleveland and Coconut Grove – or on his beloved yacht, the “ Lone Ranger,” it was always a delight to be in his company and to bask in his energy, creative vision, and independent spirit.
Renowned for his commitment to art and architecture, his extraordinary support of Frank Gehry’s career is legendary. Peter’s passion for the arts extended far beyond his own personal collection and was felt by many through his unstinting philanthropy. He was, for example, an exceptionally generous supporter of the Guggenheim Museum, where he also served for several years as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees. Over time, he became the single biggest donor in the museum’s history, and was responsible for the restoration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece building. Back in his hometown, the Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, the Cleveland Institute of Art and Case Western Reserve University also benefited immensely from his ongoing patronage. At Princeton University, his alma mater, he endowed the Frank Gehry-designed science library named the Lewis Library, the interdisciplinary Lewis Center for the Arts and The Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, housed in the Carl Icahn Laboratory. His charitable spirit extended beyond the art world and benefited a collection of political groups, which supported his progressive values.
JAMES ROSENQUIST'S UNTITLED, 1985. ESTIMATE $220,000–280,000.
Peter is also remembered as a business visionary. Under his leadership, the Progressive Corporation grew from a modest operation to become one of the largest auto insurance providers in the nation. He accomplished this expansion largely by providing insurance for high-risk drivers. With this unorthodox strategy, Peter demonstrated to us all the importance of taking risks. He also believed that placing art in a business environment would inspire people to think creatively, and so he built the Progressive Art Collection, which is renowned as one of the world’s leading corporate collections.
Lisa Dennison is Chairman, Sotheby’s Americas
LEAD IMAGE: Alex Katz's Vicky and Wally, 1983. Estimate $200,000–300,000.