A jewelry heist successful her Manhattan location spurred her to commencement 1 of America’s premier collections, shown successful a backstage Queens depository and overmuch of it donated to the Whitney.
March 28, 2023, 6:01 p.m. ET
Emily Fisher Landau, a New Yorker who utilized a Lloyd’s security colony from a spectacular jewel heist successful her flat to money what would go 1 of America’s premier collections of modern art, died connected March 27 successful Palm Beach, Fla. She was 102.
Her decease was confirmed by her daughter, Candia Fisher.
From 1991 to 2017, Ms. Landau opened her postulation of 1,200 artworks to the nationalist successful the Fisher Landau Center for Art, a repurposed erstwhile mill successful Long Island City, Queens. In 2010, she pledged astir 400 works, past worthy betwixt $50 cardinal and $75 million, to the Whitney Museum of American Art, wherever she had agelong been a trustee.
Ms. Landau’s trajectory into the creation satellite began unexpectedly connected a outpouring day successful 1969, portion she was retired astatine lunch. Armed burglars disguised arsenic aerial conditioning repairmen broke into her flat successful the Imperial House gathering connected the Upper East Side, bound the navigator successful a impermanent closet and opened a level harmless hidden wrong different closet.
For birthdays, anniversaries and holidays implicit the years, her husband, Martin Fisher, a existent property developer, had fixed her parures — matched necklace, earring, ringing and bracelet sets holding emeralds, rubies, sapphires and diamonds — on with a 39-carat bluish achromatic diamond solitaire. All were kept successful the safe.
“I was devastated,” Ms. Landau said of the heist successful interviews conducted for a Whitney catalog, “Legacy: The Emily Fisher Landau Collection.” But, she added, “I decided that I didn’t privation the jewelry immoderate more. I present had effect wealth for a collection,” acknowledgment to the security settlement.
“What I truly wanted to bargain was paintings,” she said, “so astir apt the theft was 1 of the champion things that ever happened to me.” (The country of the crime, Imperial House, connected East 69th Street betwixt Lexington and Third Avenues, had been built by her husband’s company, Fisher Brothers.)
Ms. Landau had aspired to go an creator earlier her father, besides a developer, sent her to secretarial school. Later, without ever having taken an creation past class, she started collecting informally. After the jewelry theft, her archetypal large portion was a three-and-a-half ft gangly Calder mobile, which she bought successful 1968 from its proprietor connected Central Park West.
“I didn’t person a car and operator successful those days, and truthful I came backmost connected the crosstown autobus connected West 86th Street and stood up and carried the Calder similar a Christmas tree,” she said. “Nobody asked maine anything.”
Ms. Landau soon discovered the enactment of Josef Albers when, walking on East 57th Street, she chanced connected a poster successful a model for a amusement astatine the Pace Gallery. “It startled my oculus — truthful minimal,” she said. “From the infinitesimal I saw that Albers, I knew I loved simplicity. Albers was my opening constituent arsenic a collector. I’ve ne'er collected thing due to the fact that it was fashionable. It was ever astir what I instinctively liked.”
Her curiosity led her upstairs to Pace and what turned retired to beryllium a agelong narration with the assemblage and its owner, Arne Glimcher. “Originally I bought creation with my husband,” she said. Their archetypal ample acquisition was a trio of paintings — by Picasso, Dubuffet and Léger — that Mr. Glimcher had shown her, each leaning against a partition successful his office. “Later I’d bargain connected my own,” she said.
She went connected to bargain works by Matisse, Mondrian, Jean Arp, Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, Paul Klee, Louise Nevelson and Lucas Samaras. “I spent each the wealth connected art,” she said. “Those were bargain years.”
Pace, on with the Leo Castelli Gallery successful Manhattan, remained a large root for her increasing collection, but Mr. Glimcher’s assemblage partner, Fred Mueller, proved a relation exemplary for integrating art, artists and a New York societal life. She remembers a enactment successful his spare Gracie Square flat wherever Ms. Nevelson, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol circulated among their ain artworks with different guests. “His illustration really gave maine the impetus to cod successful depth,” Ms. Landau said.
But past her hubby died, successful 1976. “After that determination was a large spread successful the collection,” she said. “I stopped.”
In astir 1980, Ms. Landau met and hired the New York theatre and edifice decorator Bill Katz to redecorate her flat connected Park Avenue, wherever she had since moved. The committee morphed into a semipermanent narration successful which Mr. Katz, besides an creation consultant, advised her connected collecting beyond the halfway modernists she already had.
“‘Emily, if you privation to look astatine younger people’s work, it would alteration their lives, and beryllium an absorbing acquisition for you,’” she recalled him telling her.
On workplace visits successful New York’s heated creation satellite of the 1980s and ’90s, Ms. Landau focused connected modern works, sometimes buying the full room, arsenic she did with a Rodney Graham show.
“She had the temperament to determination guardant with the zeitgeist,” said the New York creation advisor Amy Cappellazzo. “She became good known arsenic a large collector, and I deliberation her tastes encouraged that infinitesimal done the ’80s and ’90s. Others followed.”
By the mid-1980s, Ms. Landau had go a trustee astatine the Whitney, wherever she sat connected a succession of boards for astir 25 years. The 4th level of the museum, past located connected Madison Avenue connected the Upper East Side, was named successful her grant successful 1994, the twelvemonth she established an endowment for the Whitney Biennial exhibitions.
“She astir apt has been 1 of the astir important trustees successful Whitney history,” said Leonard Lauder, president emeritus of the museum.
By the mid-1980s, with the creation marketplace swelling successful New York and museums expanding crossed the country, Ms. Landau occupied an progressively salient spot wrong New York’s creation ecosystem, supporting artists personally and museums institutionally.
Beyond the Whitney, she sat connected committees astatine the Museum of Modern Art and connected the boards of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and SITE Santa Fe museum, some successful New Mexico. For her enactment of its taste institutions, the French authorities inducted her into the Order of Arts and Letters arsenic a chevalier.
Outside the creation world, she established the Fisher Landau Foundation for probe connected dyslexia and assistance to dyslexic children — she herself was dyslexic — and the Fisher Landau Center for the Treatment of Learning Disabilities for children, adolescents and adults astatine the Albert Einstein College of Medicine successful the Bronx. She besides had a spot connected the committee of the Metropolitan Opera.
In the precocious 1980s, Ms. Landau recovered a 25,000-square-foot erstwhile parachute-harness mill successful Long Island City to location her postulation — a backstage depository that would beryllium unfastened to the nationalist astatine nary charge. Max Gordon, a minimalist London designer caller from his conversion of a overgarment mill into the Saatchi Collection successful London, transformed the Queens plant, a three-story factual structure, into the Fisher Landau Center for Art.
“With her ain museum, she was a large illustration of the premier collectors successful past who cod not conscionable for themselves but for posterity,” Mr. Lauder said. “She was buying much for time than today.”
Emily Lanzner was calved connected Aug. 23, 1920, successful Glens Falls, N.Y., adjacent Lake George, and grew up successful the Washington Heights conception of Manhattan, surviving successful Emily Court, a gathering her father, Samuel Lanzner, developed and owned, naming it aft his daughter. Her mother, Cecilia Lanzner, was a homemaker.
After a little marriage, she met and aboriginal joined Mr. Fisher, astatine the clip the young landlord of an flat successful which she was surviving successful Forest Hills, Queens. She had 3 children with him, Richard, Anthony and Candia. In 1978, aft Mr. Fisher’s death, she joined Sheldon Landau, a retired covering manufacturer. Her lad Anthony and his wife, Anne, died successful a level clang successful 2003. That aforesaid year, her grandson Andrew died successful an automobile accident. Richard, her older son, died successful 2006. Mr. Landau died successful 2009.
In summation to her daughter, Ms. Landau is survived by 9 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren.
With the succession of tragedies successful her contiguous household — each coinciding with changing markets successful the creation satellite successful the 2000s — Ms. Landau’s involvement successful collecting diminished.
“From astir 2004 to 2008, a batch of hedge money radical speculated,” the New York gallerist Barbara Gladstone said. “They were a antithetic breed, and Emily was blessed to measurement aside. She typifies pre-2000 collectors who made an avocation retired of refining their collections. She was not conscionable buying due to the fact that it would spell up successful value. That’s a wonderfully old-fashioned tradition.”
Ms. Landau’s Center for Art remained unfastened to the nationalist until 2017. In her past years, she struggled with Alzheimer’s illness and lived chiefly successful Greenwich, Conn.
“Whenever she spotted a pistillate wearing costly jewelry,” her daughter, Candia Fisher, said, “she utilized to say, ‘That could beryllium creation connected the walls.’”