Modern Influences

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

While pieces like these are impressive on their own, others have a powerful effect as a group. Down the corridor, for instance, there hangs a sensational array of photographs that essentially illustrate the history of the art form. Among them are the first "photographs" in the world—1850s cyanotype photograms of plants, created by Anna Atkins — as well as beautiful sepia-tone prints of Gertrude Stein and other celebrities taken by Man Ray (1920s); platinum prints by Vogue photographer Horst P. Horst (1930s); and work by the New York crime-scene photographer known as Weegee (1950s). These photos, hung randomly, would keep any art student busy picking out the famous artists and subjects.

have amassed thousands of pieces, their roster is hardly fixed. For example, they recently traded a 2003 Jeff Koons sculpture that looks exactly like a lobster-shaped inflatable pool toy for something they liked better. And often, they’re just ready for a new addition.

"Our collection is always in motion; we’re always changing," Fineberg says. "If you come back, you’ll see four or five new pieces, and this is where we" — referring to his wife, Sandra — "have our big disagreement."

"I say, ‘Will you please leave it so I can enjoy it? I just want to enjoy it!’" says Sandra, in mock frustration. "I like to see what I have. You need time to appreciate it." The Finebergs’ current art adviser, Michael Black, concurs. "Gerry is a very curious collector. He gets fidgety if two weeks have gone by and he hasn’t bought anything."

One thing they don’t collect anymore? Emerging artists — though, given Fineberg’s involvement with the Institute of Contemporary Art (he’s a board member), it’s not about taste so much as price tags. "Twenty-five years ago, new artists were affordable, so it was okay if you made a mistake," Fineberg says. "Now, after three years of working, they’re up into six figures. You can’t afford to buy them. It was new buyers coming in, and they thought this was the greatest. I don’t know why they pushed the artists so fast.

"I like to buy after six, eight, 10 years of work so that I can choose the right piece," he says. "Even great artists have some dogs."