One of the highlights of 2016 for me was meeting the legendary Spencer Hays—an immensely likable person with a quick wit, a twinkle in his eye, and a burning passion for art. His collection was as legendary as the man: Degas, Modigliani, Matisse, Renoir, Bonnard—in other words all of my favorites. He invited me to his home here in Nashville to talk about the collection and decision to ultimately gift it in its entirety to the Musée d’Orsay. Room after room showcased the most beautiful Impressionist and Nabi art. He talked lovingly about each piece, where he and his wife, Marlene, found it, how he negotiated to buy it, sharing all the nuances that collectors love to explain. It seemed to me that Spencer had his favorites hung just a little higher up the wall so that he had to reverently and respectfully look up to them. At times he looked like a college professor; other times he looked like a schoolboy excitedly talking about his favorite toys. A small Matisse caught my eye, a gorgeous portrait of a red-headed woman. Spencer handed it to me for a closer look, and for a few seconds, holding that Matisse, I was the luckiest guy in the world. And that is what made Spencer Hays such an extraordinary and charismatic person. He had the ability to make you feel special, that your opinion mattered, and that he was genuinely interested in you. Spencer Hays passed away last month, but I suspect his spirit lives on in just about everyone he ever met.
A sincere thank-you to Stan Mabry at Stanford Fine Art for introducing me to this remarkable man.
Paul Polycarpou | Publisher