Arts preview: Pizzuti Collection grand opening offers inside, personal look

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

On a recent weekday afternoon a small team of workers put the finishing touches on the Pizzuti Collection, washing the building's windows and polishing the hardwood floors in preparation for the grand opening on Saturday, Sept. 7.

"As you see we're still working," said Director/Curator Rebecca Ibel, excusing the small mess.

In the last year the building, which was constructed in 1923 and most recently housed United Commercial Travelers, has undergone quite a transformation. Once an admittedly gorgeous office complex, the rehabbed, three-story structure will now serve as the most recent addition to the ever-changing Short North art scene.

The space, conceived by longtime collector Ron Pizzuti as a way to showcase the private collection he's amassed over his past four decades in the art world, marks its grand opening with a trio of exhibits: "Looking Back," "Cuban Forever," and "Looking Forward."

As its title suggests, "Looking Back" explores the artists and artwork that first sparked Pizzuti's interest in collecting. Included among these is the first piece he ever purchased: a silkscreen print of "Circus People" by Dutch painter Karel Appel he procured from a gallery in 1974.

"A lot of this stuff in here is right out of [the Pizzuti's] living room," Ibel said. "These are very personal, and there were times it was almost like, 'No, we can't let that in here!'"

The other two exhibits focus on Pizzuti's ongoing fascination with the art emanating from Cuba ("Cuban Forever") and the up-and-coming painters, sculptors and photographers that have captured his imagination in recent years ("Looking Forward").

Taken as a whole, the collection offers a fascinating glimpse into Pizzuti's wide-ranging artistic interests. There are massive sculptures (Ai Weiwei's "Moon Cabinet #5"), ghostly photographs (Ori Gersht's "Against the Tide") and abstract canvases whose simplicity belies their ragged beauty (Roberto Diago's "Untitled 2011"). The subject matter is equally sprawling, with politically charged pieces perched alongside works that flash a wicked sense of humor. In the outdoor gardens, a giant Enrique Martinez Celaya statue depicting the story of his exile rests just steps from a metal man urinating on the side of the building.

"Art is [Pizzuti's] passion," Ibel said, "And he wants to have fun with it."

The museum will be open to the public Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., as well as by appointment. Admission is $10, or free for members and students.

Pizzuti Collection

Noon-5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7

632 N. Park St., Short North