Melva Bucksbaum, who died in August 2015, wanted to be an artist when she grew up. However, at some point she decided that she was better at buying art than she was at creating it. She married Raymond Learsy, also a collector, in 2001. The artist Pat Steir described the couple to the New York Times in 2003: “They support artists, even new ones. They buy according to their hearts, and they have good ones.” Bucksbaum was known for her Bucksbaum Award, a $100,000 prize given every other year, with no strings attached, to an artist included in the Whitney Biennial. The couple’s collection includes works by Richard Serra, Robert Mapplethorpe, David Salle, and many others. “Art,” Learsy said in a video made for Skowhegan School of Arts, “is a reflection of the life we lead, the moment we’re in. And to attach to that is something that I think just adds a dimension to one’s life that is extraordinarily significant.”

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Melva Bucksbaum and Raymond Learsy

Colorado; Connecticut; New York

Source of wealth:
Inheritance (shopping malls) and commodities trading

Collecting area:
Contemporary art

Top 200 appearance:
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Fun fact:

When Bucksbaum and Learsy purchased an estate in Connecticut, they planned to house their art in an old barn on the property, but their insurance company refused to insure the collection if it was kept in a wooden structure. Instead they built a new, climate-controlled building, which they call the Granary, to store their works.