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The Guthman Collection

Sandra Guthman. Photo courtesy of Loyola University Chicago website.

It was 1969, a trip to New York, and a Picasso lithograph that sparked the fire that would ultimately blaze the trail of Chicago-based art collectors Sandra P. and Jack Guthman. In Chicago, the Guthmans’ roots run deep and their community ties are strong. Sandra (the daughter of local business magnate, Samuel Polk) and Jack (a recently retired Real Estate attorney) have taken a vested interest in improving the lives, education, and cultural opportunities of their fellow Chicago residents.

The Guthmans began collecting at the center of the New York art scene, picking up small prints from the likes of Robert Rauschenberg and Ellsworth Kelly. More recently their aesthetic instincts have sharpened their focus on contemporary photography, acquiring works from a variety of photographers including Michal Rovner and Brian Ulrich. Yes, the Guthmans collect art (and they have an impressive collection predominantly housed in their Chicago home) but they are not glorified home self-decorators, nor are they aesthetically uninterested art collectors concerned purely in investment value. During an interview in 2001 with Paulina Kolczynska for the Murray Guy Gallery in New York, Jack Guthman reiterated the couple’s respect for the works in their collection: “A lot of what we have is conceptual art. I like the object to be appealing as much as the idea.” He added, “Everything that we have is on our walls, we do not have anything in storage. It is a question how it feels in the house.”

Though their collecting may not have begun until the late 1960s, the arts have always held a place in the hearts of this pair, especially for Sandra. Her involvement in dance classes at the Lou Conte Dance Studios prompted her to later seek out a place on the boards of numerous cultural institutions such as the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and Music and Dance Theater Chicago, Inc. In September 2010, Sandra was honored by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago at their annual fundraising Spotlight Ball.

The Guthmans have a long and diverse history of actively supporting and promoting the expansion of contemporary cultural arts on local, national and international scales.

Jack and Sandra Guthman. Photo courtesy of Chicago Business.

Jack currently acts as a Trustee for the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and Sandra is President and CEO of the Polk Bros. Foundation. In 2008, both Guthmans were listed as members of the 50 Artists for 50 States National Committee and currently, among other projects, both are members of the Host Committee for Art Chicago International Fair of Contemporary and Modern Art.

Much like Robert and Ethel Scull (without the public and messy divorce), as a couple the Guthmans, through their personal collecting and cultural philanthropic efforts, have been a boon to the contemporary art scene; most recently, pair provided support for the series Production Site: The Artist’s Studio Inside-Out at the MCA. The Jack and Sandra Guthman Foundation, The Polk Bros. Foundation, and Shefsky & Froelich (the law firm from which Jack recently retired), support all manner of arts and their respective institutions, from the more ethereal elements of performing arts to the more traditional and tangible art forms of sculpture and painting on view in museums throughout the City of Chicago. It is difficult to go too far into the realm of the Chicago art world without stumbling upon one, the other, or both Guthmans. As individuals and as a couple, they are a cultural force encouraging emerging and contemporary artists both outside of and within the Chicago art scene.