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Walking the halls of Lewis and Roca, you get the feeling you're in someone's living room. A real estate lawyer whose work required tedious attention to minutiae, Lewis hated things that matched. The art is, by design, framed and matted differently--a bright hodgepodge of well-loved works.
Lewis died before the art was hung in the firm's new oak-trimmed offices at Two Renaissance Square, at Central and Washington. A small bronze of Lewis--eyes twinkling, hands in suit pockets--sits on a shelf in the reception area on the 19th floor. Lewis insisted that the bronze, a gift, not be displayed until he died, says Rich Goldsmith, a 20-year firm veteran and Lewis' anointed curator of the firm's art.
Goldsmith wears a scholarly, thick beard and a Jerry Garcia tie. His clients include the Phoenix Suns. Goldsmith isn't sure that Lewis had a grand plan for drawing him into art collecting. He began consulting with Lewis in the early Eighties, when Goldsmith started his own personal collection; soon he was in charge of the firm's collection, as well. Today, Goldsmith's own home is packed with art, and he's the chairman of Phoenix Arts Commission. He learned a lot about art and collecting from Lewis, he says. One thing he learned is that not all subject matter is appropriate for the workplace.
Lewis primarily collected prints, but one of his favorite artists was John Dawson, a local painter and sculptor best known for his use of masks. Goldsmith admires Dawson, but other members of Lewis and Roca didn't share Goldsmith's and Lewis' enthusiasm for the artist's work. It is rather sinister, particularly the large oil of Ku Klux Klan members standing before the American flag that Goldsmith hung outside his office in 1984. Twenty-eight staff members signed a petition asking Goldsmith to take the painting down. He did, reluctantly, at Lewis' gentle urging.
Upon reflection, Goldsmith agrees with the decision; he believes an African-American collector now owns the work.
Lewis' favorite pieces are prominently displayed in the reception area and outside the office that was to be his. They include the stark, black-and-white work of Spanish artist Antoni Tapies, mixed-media creations by Robert Motherwell and an ink wash by Paul Jenkins. Arizona artists Ed Mell, Woodward Payne and John Waddell are also included.
Lewis loved the contemporary "New York" artists--Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Motherwell and others. He also loved the work of the late Frank Lloyd Wright, a longtime friend and client. Wright's firm, Taliesin West, designed Lewis and Roca's present office space and its former space in the First Interstate Bank building. Reproductions of Wright's designs hang in the office, which is most noted for its Wrightness in the light that pours through an octagonal oculus in the ceiling of the reception area.
In addition to the original works, the collection includes many posters and prints, for Lewis tried to limit costs to an average of $300 per piece--including the cost of framing.
To Goldsmith's disappointment, there's not much for him to do anymore in the way of art acquisition. The firm stopped buying in the late Eighties, and late in life, Lewis turned to coin collecting.
Two storage rooms a few floors below the offices are lined with stacks of framed work.
"You see why we don't need any more," Goldsmith says wryly, turning a key in the door of one of the storage rooms and flipping on a light to reveal the lode.
In one of the storage rooms, a life-size plastic skeleton used for courtroom exhibits keeps vigil with framed prints and posters and a dusty cardboard box that appears to hold framed diplomas. Contraband? No, Goldsmith explains, the box holds Paul Roca's photographs.
Roca, the firm's other founding partner, died in 1979. While Lewis' great passion was art, Roca was obsessed with Sonoran missions. He traveled the Southwest and Sonora, photographing every Spanish church he could find. Arizona Historical Society published his book, Paths of the Padres Through Sonora, in 1968. (Bud Jacobson recalls that Roca used to host luncheons at which he would regale his associates in the legal community with slide shows of his tours.)
There is no printed catalogue of the complete Lewis and Roca collection, although in the reception area there used to be a stack of handouts describing the work on the 19th and 20th floors, Goldsmith says.
In the other storage room, Goldsmith searches in vain for the index-card file documenting the collection--Lewis started it years ago.
Unable to find it, Goldsmith turns instead to flip through the stacks, admiring work he hasn't seen for a while.
@body:Bud Jacobson is ready for any question, armed with a booklet titled "Everything you ever wanted to know about Snell & Wilmer's New Offices--and more." The 26-page pamphlet includes a list of the artwork on display (with lengthy descriptions of major pieces); Jacobson provides the names of the carpet installer, plaster manufacturer and cactus supplier.
Jacobson is proud of what hangs on the walls--including his own "closet" collection of art, which he sold to the firm for half its appraised value, and the collection of Arizona photography he began acquiring on behalf of the firm in 1985.