Walter Pomeroy is a retired, modest salaried General Dynamics employee who built an amazing 400 work art collection. He has quietly lived in a suburban apartment (actually, now, three adjacent apartments) for many years beneath the views and under the radar of wealthier and supposedly more culturally inclined La Jollans of Mount Soledad. The grand collection includes early works by John Altoon, John Baldessari, and Billy Al Bengston that most museums would hawk what remains of their souls to acquire. Pomeroy recently gifted fifty-two important artworks from his collection to the City of San Diego Civic Art Collection and to the Oceanside Museum of Art (OMA).
Today, marked the art exhibition opening of “Portrait of Pomeroy” curated by Dave Hampton that features many of the benefactor’s recent gifts and a few other works drawn from his still growing collection. Pomeroy began to worry about the future of his art collection several years ago, so his friends, including Mark-Elliot Lugo who is the retired first full-time visual arts curator for the San Diego Public Library, helped negotiate the donations. Half of the artworks were donated to the Civic Art Collection and the other half to OMA. The current exhibition is a celebratory salute to the esteemed benefactor’s generosity and is on display in the 9th Floor Art Gallery at the downtown Central Library.
Celebrating Mr. Pomeroy today were many visitors that also included many of his friends: prominent art and theater critics, artists, and collectors. When meeting the kindly Walter Pomeroy for the first time today, I inquired about why he decided to give such artworks as an early John Baldessari black oil painting titled “[…]” (1959) to the Civic Collection and others to OMA. He explained his belief that since his collection contains mostly San Diego artists’ works, he didn’t think the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego nor the San Diego Museum of Art would desire them.
Luckily, beautiful examples of work like influential artist Richard Allen Morris’s grand twelve-foot tall painting titled “For the Wyoming Kid and Martha” (1962) as well as important works by other influential artist/educators such as John Baldessari, Bob Matheny, and Guy Williams will eventually be permanently displayed throughout the downtown library. Other coveted artworks such as the Altoon and Bengston are now housed in the permanent collection of OMA.
The exhibition “Portrait of Pomeroy” curated by Dave Hampton is on display at the Central San Diego Public Library’s 9th Floor Art Gallery from 12 March through 15 May 2016.
(C) 2016 by Kraig Cavanaugh.