Jerry I. Speyer and Katherine G. Farley
“I like to make money,” real-estate developer Jerry I. Speyer once told the New York Times. “But that’s only part of what makes me happy.” Another part is his art. Speyer, a chairman emeritus at the Museum of Modern Art, has been collecting for decades. And while he and his wife Katherine Farley own a few works by “brand-name” artists like Eric Fischl and Damien Hirst, Speyer is better known for his acquisition of works by artists who are less established and have not yet been validated by critical opinion. Visitors to his art-filled Upper East Side apartment are supposedly given a catalogue to assist their perusing, and steering clear of auction houses, he largely buys from private dealers, choosing his artwork himself—and leaning toward the irreverent, the ironic, and the outré.
Although he buys and sells real estate as the market strikes him, Speyer buys his art to hold. (He might loan a piece to a friend now and then, but he is not known to sell.) Called the “power couple of the moment” in 2004 by the New York Times, Speyer and Farley’s philanthropic fingerprints can be found on most of New York’s cultural institutions. Farley, then the head of the New York Philharmonic’s real estate committee, spearheaded the effort to renovate Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall. And Speyer was a major force behind the Museum of Modern Art’s expansion in the early 2000s. When the museum sought to buy the Dorset Hotel on 53rd Street, Speyer brokered the deal with the owners—even persuading them to sell the building to MoMA for $50 million (below its estimated value of $75 million). Speyer also owns a piece of history, as his collection includes a graffiti-spattered chunk of the Berlin Wall.