Art means more to Jordan Schnitzer than just something nice to hang on a wall. For the Coachella Valley art collector, it is his refuge.
“For me, waking up without art around me is like waking up without the sun,” says Schnitzer, who has owned a residence in Indian Wells since the early 2000s. “My whole collection is about the art and the audience.”
Schnitzer, 68, is a father of four and owns the largest private collection of post-World War II prints and multiples in the nation since 1995. He manages a real estate empire that spans across six states. He also has three museums in two states that are named for him.
This year he will be honored as Patron Of The Year at the ninth edition of Art Palm Springs, an international art event that showcases post-war and contemporary art, set for Feb. 13-17 at the Palm Springs Convention Center. Schnitzer will be feted opening night in the Collector’s Lounge.
“The honor of being chosen, when they called, I was flattered. I’ve been fortunate. I’ve been recognized often, but to be in the footsteps of Helene Galen, Donna McMillan, my mother, others, is a real treat because I have such respect for them,” says Schnitzer.
Raised in Portland, Oregon, by a working class mother and father in the real estate business, they also influenced him in the ways of philanthropy by attending charity events.When it comes to art, much of his influence as a passionate collector springs from his mother, Arlene.
Arlene Schnitzer attended the Portland Art Museum, now called Pacific Northwest College of Art, and would come home with canvases, pastels, and oil paint. In her third year of art school, Arlene opened The Fountain Gallery in 1961 — the very first contemporary art gallery in Portland. After 25 years, she decided to retire and turned the gallery over to an assistant. It continues today as the Russo Lee Gallery.
At the age of 14, Jordan Schnitzer bought his first art piece by a Portland painter, Louis Bunce, from his mother’s art gallery. It cost him $60 with the family discount that he paid off in $5 monthly increments.
“My first love is art of the Northwest,” says Schnitzer. “I was on the board of the Portland Art Museum at the time [my mother turned over] the gallery … I remember feeling, looking back, emotionally a bit adrift in terms of the art side because the gallery had been such an important part of my life.”
In the 1990s his parents established The Harold and Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation and the CommuniCare program, a unique, educational youth-focused, grant-making program. Students enter into a long-term program evaluation and taught process and how to make investment and financial decisions.
“We wake up serving the museums curators and collectors and therefore, the public. The joy I get from the art is fulfilling, but it does not compare to the joy I get from sharing the art.”
— Jordan Schnizter
Under the foundation, Schnitzer has been able to give his time in aiding underprivileged communities by reaching out to grade schools, art galleries, and institutions that do not have the ability to showcase art by Andy Warhol and other prestigious artists.
“I don’t have a sense of ownership, but a huge sense of stewardship,” says Schnitzer. “We reach out to each museum and we say, ‘tell me about your audiences. Who is it you’re not serving that has a hard time raising money that we might be able to help with? We do these things all across the country and [it is] just a joy.”
Two years ago, Schnizter shared his Warhol collection with the Palm Springs Art Museum, giving children from Coachella Valley schools an opportunity to view it and learn about the artist. Additionally, Schnizter partnered with Palm Springs Life to introduce Warhol through a series of art events where kids painted their own take on a Warhol creation.
Schnitzer’s obsession for art collecting began when he was on the board of the Portland Art Museum — one of the 30 civic and cultural boards he has been on. He visited the Augen Gallery where he bought a small David Hockney from the Blue Guitar Series, a small Picasso-like head, a skull, and a cross. From then on, he would return back and buy more art for his collection.
According to Schnitzer, he had “blown through wall space” before he was out of college. But he always had his mother’s voice at the back of his mind saying, ‘If something speaks to you, don’t pass it up. Buy it, put it under the bed, rotate some other art you have. But if something really hits you, indulge yourself, treat yourself.’”
Today, Schnitzer owns a collection of 15,000 works, encompassing 250 artists — 816 of pieces by Warhol, 296 by Frank Stella, 150 of Lousie Bourgeois, 175 of David Hockney’s, and other multiples.
In 2018, Jordan Schnizter partnered with Palm Springs Life to introduce artist Andy Warhol through a series of art events where kids painted their own take on a Warhol creation.
Schnitzer notes the foundation has produced an art book teaching collection, something first published 15 years ago. They are books with pages of artists’ works like Warhol, Ellsworth Kelly, and John Buck. To date, the foundation has published 12 of the art books and received no financial benefit.
The foundation created one of the largest lending programs to allow accredited museums to borrow from vast and varied collections for free. When exhibiting institutions want the foundation’s art, there are no display fees. However, they must cover accreditation requirements and pay transport fees.
“I’ve never walked into one of 130 exhibitions and thought, ‘Oh boy, I own this,’” says Schnitzer. “I’ve never once thought that, ever. When I walk into these exhibitions, and it happens every time, I burst into tears … It’s like walking into a room of geniuses and that’s inspiring. It makes me think how much better I can be in my work world, in my civic world, because we’re all gifted.”
To date, the foundation has loaned more than 100 collections to more than 150 museums. “We wake up serving the museums curators and collectors and therefore, the public. The joy I get from the art is fulfilling, but it does not compare to the joy I get from sharing the art.”
Art Palm Springs, Feb. 13-17, Palm Springs Convention Center, 277 N. Avenida Caballeros, art-palmsprings.com.