A glimpse into art collectors’s homes

Some of the extraordinary collection of art in the Cambridge residence of Alan Dershowitz and Caroline Cohen.

Diane McManus Jensen, “The Art of Collecting: An Intimate Tour Inside Private Art Collections, with Advice on Starting Your Own,” Antique Collectors Club, Ltd., 2010, 250 pp., $65.

Aquinnah summer resident Diane McManus Jensen has helped art lovers refine their collections for more than 30 years. In her new book, “The Art of Collecting,” she has drawn from friends and clients to present an impressive tour of 23 private collections and a how-to on collecting.

Ms. Jensen and her husband David, who contributed a chapter on “Art and the Law,” celebrated the launch of “The Art of Collecting” last week at a reception hosted by John Murphy, a proprietor of Tracker Home Décor in Edgartown.

Ms. Jensen explained at the reception how she came to write the book when she realized the need for a practical guide to collecting. Her professional background has situated her well to gather the expertise necessary for such a book.

After studying art history at the University of Michigan, Ms. Jensen started an art advisory business, served as chairman of the Committee of the New England Region for the Archives of American Art of the Smithsonian Institution, and opened galleries in New York and then Martha’s Vineyard.

Ms. Jensen spent three years working on the book, enlisting New York-based filmmaker Ralph Toporoff to photograph the collections. The abundant photographs in this handsomely produced book show the art as it is exhibited in the owners’ rooms, shows how they are clustered or spotlighted on the walls, and demonstrates the impact of paintings and sculpture in hallways or as focal points in a home.

Vineyarders will particularly enjoy Ms. Jensen’s interviews with five Vineyard collectors and an article on “Art and Architecture” by Vineyard and Boston-based architect Patrick Ahearn.

Using a Q & A format, and grouping her interviews alphabetically, Ms. Jensen selected author and Harvard law professor and Chilmark summer resident Alan Dershowitz and his wife Carolyn Cohen for their extensive collection of modern masters and Judaica. Page after page of color photos reveal the museum-like atmosphere of their Boston home.

Although he did not grow up with art in his home, Mr. Dershowitz became aware of modern art when, as a child, he bought himself a set of the “Encyclopedia Americana” and studied the Picasso and Matisse reproductions in it.

Anne Gallagher, who winters in Florida, and whose summer home overlooks Crystal Lake in Oak Bluffs, bought her first original oil when she was in sixth grade. “My mother advanced me the $3.25 it cost to own the painting, and I paid her back over time from my weekly allowance,” she says.

Ms. Gallagher worked as a lecturer at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and she likes to collect new and developing artists. Her collection of contemporary regional artists includes works by Tom Maley, Allen Whiting, Ken Vincent and Jacqui Mendez-Diaz — all Vineyard artists.

Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter also favors contemporary art and has filled her homes in Cambridge and Edgartown with artists like Wolf Kahn, Rez Williams, and Albert Alcalay. “I do not like dark palettes,” she says, “because at home, I want light, air, and joy.”

Concentrating on School of Paris painting and Southwestern pottery, Tisbury summer residents Nancy and Charles Parrish look for lesser-known artists, particularly women and African Americans whose work has been undervalued.

The Parrishes prefer to develop their collection through art dealers. “After all, they are professionals and have spent more time than we have learning about the market and finding interesting pieces of art,” they say.

Donna and Neil Weisman of Chilmark focus their collection on Photorealism and Italian Glass. They like to attend auction house previews. “We always play the game of choosing one painting we would like to take home — not for investment, but to have on the wall for the rest of your life, ” Mr. Weisman says.

The second section of the book covers a variety of topics — from framing and lighting to conservation and insurance — that will be helpful to individuals interested in developing an art collection. Mr. Ahearn of Ahearn Schopfer Architects discusses how many of the homes he’s designed were done so with art in mind, and Mr. Jensen suggests some of the legal issues that even beginning collectors need to be cognizant of.

“The Art of Collecting” is a lovely introduction to a world that many Vineyarders will enjoy.

On Tuesday, August 10, from 4 to 6 pm, at Chilmark Tavern, Diane McManus Jensen will be signing “The Art of Collecting: An Intimate Tour Inside Private Art Collections.