Modern Influences

Two art-loving Bostonians draw on their world-class collection to transform a Back Bay condo into a masterpiece.

Today the Finebergs have several pieces by Basquiat in their collection, as well as works by his even more famous mentor, Andy Warhol. On a trip to the pop-art legend’s last incarnation of the Factory, shortly before his death in 1987, they picked up an outsize painting of shoes; it’s still one of Sandra’s favorites. "Sandra has a shoe fetish like Imelda Marcos," Fineberg explains. "There were some great ones that we could’ve had, like his big self-portraits, but she really wanted the shoes. That’s how you pick, and she’s enjoyed that more than any other work here."

"HERE" IS THE FINEBERGS’ current residence, three units in the Mandarin Oriental condo development that they bought five years ago. With the help of architect Kelly Monnahan and interior design firm PlanetaBasque, they’ve since transformed it into a home for both themselves and their art. "We didn’t want to feel like we were living in a gallery," says Fineberg, "but we didn’t want a conventional layout, either." Monnahan’s innovations include sliding walls, to accommodate a rotating collection of smaller pieces, and "floating" walls, filled with art and lighted above and below to distinguish them from standard walls. Three long, double-wide hallways allow guests to step back to study the works, many of which are very large — like the Cindy Sherman and Andreas Gursky photographs in the entry hall, each topping four feet.

Of course, being able to see the works clearly is only the first step in understanding them, as Fineberg notes during a tour of his collection. He pauses before a book-sized painting, Jan. 19, 1982, by On Kawara. Since 1966, the New York–based minimalist artist has been painting the date of each day in the same font on the same-size canvas; each painting is then packaged in a box with a newspaper from the same day and the city where the artist happened to be. Asked what happened on this particular date, Fineberg shrugs, "Nothing special." Then he adds, "When people come here, they look at a blank painting and say, ‘You know, I could’ve done that.’ But they didn’t. These artists are all trained, and this is their thing."

There are showstoppers here, to be sure. Beyond the minimalist wing is a 12-foot-high sculpture by John Chamberlain made of painted scraps of wrecked cars (to accommodate its height, Monnahan cut a circular soffit in the ceiling). Standing nearby is the life-size, hyperrealistic nude sculpture Linda, by John De Andrea; after it was installed, concerned neighbors began calling about the motionless naked woman in the window. Then there’s the Jeff Koons sculpture of a peddler, Kiepenkerl — one of three made, and the only one held privately (according to the Sotheby’s website, a Kiepenkerl sold in a 2008 auction for 3.2 million British pounds, then the equivalent of $6.3 million). Like many other pieces in the Finebergs’ collection, Kiepenkerl had to be craned into the condo, which required closing a lane of Boylston Street one Sunday morning. Though the sculpture was in a crate, it could still be seen on its way up 12 stories, drawing a crowd below to watch the impromptu art show.