Jody and Dick Goisman’s passion for decorative arts and design, particularly Art Deco, started early in their lives. They, in turn, became strong leaders in the creation, funding, and acquisition of objects for the Museum’s design collection. Their loans are featured in Milwaukee Collects and the Demmer Design Gallery. Learn more about their life as collectors, as shared with Monica Obniski, Demmer Curator of 20th- and 21st-Century Design.
Q: When did the collecting bug bite?
A: We were both in Madison at the same time. I was a student living in an Art Deco building on campus, and Dick was studying for the bar exam and already collecting prints. On our first date, we went to the Mid-America Antiques Center in Milwaukee’s Third Ward, and Dick bought a first edition of The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), an icon of Art Deco design. We were hooked.
Q: What has been your greatest triumph as collectors?
A: In 1986, the Brooklyn Museum mounted an exhibition called The Machine Age in America, 1918–1941. In the accompanying catalogue was a table from the A. O. Smith Research Building. Despite the building being one of the few Art Deco environments in Milwaukee, we knew nothing about the table. We decided to employ a unique approach to acquire it: we did nothing. Then, in June 2006, the building’s property manager contacted us about purchasing the lobby furniture. It was ours if we could match the price that a collector in Boston had offered.We wanted to keep the work in Milwaukee, so we did. We spent our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary with the moving company, relocating the chairs to our home and the Gear Table to the Milwaukee Art Museum, where it is currently on view. Other objects from our collection are featured in the Demmer Design Gallery.
Q: How is the Museum important to Milwaukee’s cultural life?
A: We believe that the function of the Museum is to educate the community; to enrich the lives of its visitors; and to inspire individuals to become collectors (collectors that loan and donate) and donors that financially support the institution. The Museum was important to us early in our collecting life. We fondly remember the exhibition Art Deco à la Mode that the Museum’s decorative arts curator at the time, Cheryl Robertson, put together. That exhibition—because there were so many wonderful decorative objects presented in a home setting—sparked a roadmap for collecting. We saw the show ten times! In a way, the Museum helped teach us how to become collectors, and because of that, we enjoy giving back to the community through the Demmer Charitable Trust.
Q: What advice would you give young collectors?
A: Collecting is about being an informed consumer, and the Museum is your partner. The only way to understand art is to see it, and the Museum has a wonderful collection. Further, the resources of the Museum’s library and archives (soon to open at the Judge Jason Downer House as the Milwaukee Art Museum Research Center) are outstanding; they are user-friendly and accessible to visitors who want
to understand art and collecting.
Q: Just for fun, if you could acquire anything in the world, what would it be?
A: All collectors have their lists, and at the top of ours is a 1934 streamlined Paul Lobel coffee service. It would look stunning at the Museum!
Image Credit: John Wellborn Root, II (American, 1887–1963). Designed for A. O. Smith Research and Engineering Building (Milwaukee, Wisconsin). Gear Table, 1929–31. Cast aluminum and glass. Lent by Jody and Dick Goisman, L39.2006. Photographer credit: John R. Glembin
For more information about the exhibition Milwaukee Collects and related programs or to plan your visit, please visit the exhibition page.