By Howard “Howdy” Freedlander, Col’67 and PAR’02
I learned first-hand on a lovely Wednesday evening, June 29, 2016, that relationships underscore the essence of giving.
The occasion was a pre-50th reunion gathering at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) to view a guided tour of a new exhibit, Embracing the Contemporary: The Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Collection of Contemporary Art.
The guides were Keith, W’67, and Kathy, CW’69. Keith is a friend and co-gift chair of our Class of 1967’s 50th reunion, as he has been for at least five past reunions. As President of the Class of 1967 since 2002, I I have been fortunate to work with Keith and observe his work ethic and fundraising prowess. I’ve gotten to know and like Kathy, an emeritus trustee of the University of Pennsylvania.
Back to relationships and their transformative effect.
Art became an immediate part of Keith and Kathy’s lives. When Keith graduated from Penn, Kathy gave him an antique print of Penn. When he entered Harvard Law School, she bought him another Penn print. When they became engaged, she gave him a Miro print.
Their loving relationship began with art. It continues. Their collection of contemporary art is a prized part of PMA and, even more broadly, the tapestry of Philadelphia’s cultural offerings.
As they learned about what they liked and didn’t like, the Sachses took a serious leap in their search for art in the early 1980s when they approached Paul Rosenthal, a former curator of 20th-century art at PMA and sought his advice. This connection to PMA was a critical one, though the Sachses have long been involved with the museum as trustees, committee chairs, guides and co-curators.
As a group of roughly 30 of us dutifully followed and questioned Keith and Kathy through their special exhibit and other galleries containing their art, we learned that this couple has had long-term relationships and friendships with some of the artists, including Jasper Johns, well-known in the contemporary art world. In fact, Keith relentlessly sought one of Johns’ pieces, finally acquiring it after 15 years of effort.
Also during our tour, another thing became readily evident: Keith and Kathy’s loving relationship. Each yielded comfortably to each other in telling a personal story or explaining an artist’s thinking and creativity. You could feel their enthusiasm. You could observe their thoughtful approach to collecting art for four decades.
What we saw at PMA has been part of the Sachs’ home in Rydal, PA. The art and their home have been one of the same. Another personal relationship.
The promised gift of more than 100 paintings, sculptures, prints and videos is one based on multiple relationships: between Keith and Kathy, between the Sachses and the museum, between the Sachses and the artists, and, on a macro level, between this generous couple and a city they love, Philadelphia.
And it all started at Penn.