While most people have to go to a museum to see paintings by Pablo Picasso or Andy Warhol, Dr. Harvey Manes simply has to walk into his living room. Over the last 45 years, the Old Westbury orthopedic surgeon has amassed quite the collection of art from world-renowned painters, a hobby he describes as both a passion and investment.
“It’s not just a collection, it’s an investment. Instead of buying stock where you just have a piece of paper, I buy a beautiful piece of art,” Manes said.
Manes has always had a strong connection to art, which was sparked by trips to the Brooklyn Museum of Art as a child. He began sculpting in college and the desire to learn more about art and its history grew, motivating him to major in art history at SUNY Binghamton before going to medical school. After becoming a doctor, he began collecting art, which he said at that time was well-priced, ranging from $5,000 to $25,000. Now those same pieces go for $100,00 to $500,000, he said.
“In the ‘70s, you could buy a Picasso or Warhol or Lichtenstein for a somewhat reasonable price,” Manes said. “The prices were high, but they weren’t astronomical.”
Over the years, he’s garnered about 100 pieces, building an eclectic collection from modern, contemporary and old masters artists, as well as sculptures. Artists in his collection include Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali and Roy Lichtenstein. Manes said he doesn’t specialize in one category or artist, he simply loves all types of art.
But buying a major art piece to add to his collection is no small feat. He said before he buys a piece to add to “his family,” he has to love it and make sure it fits in with the rest of his collection. One of the first things he takes into consideration is whether it is eye-catching and an iconic image. He also considers if it’s something the artist is known for, noting that he wouldn’t buy a portrait from an artist known for his landscapes for example.
And then there’s the cost. The average price he pays for a piece is $100,000, and Manes said he loves getting a bargain. The most he’s spent on a painting is $350,000 for a Lichtenstein; a piece that is now worth more than $1 million.
“I research prices to see if it’s in the right price range,” he said. “I love getting a bargain and getting a piece for what I believe is lower than the actual value.”
He buys his pieces from auctions and galleries from all over the world, but most of his collection comes from places in the U.S. He often opts for phone bids over in-person bidding at auctions, the biggest of which are in May and November.
“I find when you’re in the audience and see someone bidding, there’s an ego thing going on,” Manes said. “But if you’re bidding on the phone, the audience doesn’t know who’s on the phone. It could be the richest or poorest man on the other end. The audience gets intimidated and I get a better price on the phone. It’s less emotional.”
And Manes doesn’t just collect for his own pleasure. He loves to display and lend his work to various museums. He currently has 14 pieces on loan at the Nassau County Museum of Art as part of their “The Moderns: Long Island Collects Modern Art” exhibit, which runs through Nov. 8.
“I enjoy lending them so people can appreciate it,” Manes said. “I feel like I have temporary possession of these pieces. It’s for all the world to appreciate.”