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But he's also fond of the walls themselves: the wall of oxidized copper he convinced the San Francisco designers to install in the reception area and the barrio-esque cream stucco near the elevators on each floor.
When Jacobson first suggested that the office should reflect its Southwestern roots, the designers cried, "Kitsch!" Jacobson sent them to Sedona. "They really got in the mood," he says, gesturing to the sandstone cactus garden in the waiting area.
Jacobson, 72, wears gold-rimmed glasses and hearing aids in both ears, but leaps to catch elevators. These offices are his work of art.
"It's really kind of glamorous," he says, eyes flashing like topaz as he gazes up at a skylight beyond the copper wall.
Jacobson's immersion in the arts is a faint memory. Decades ago, Frank Snell asked him to rewrite the bylaws of Heard Museum. That was his first formal introduction, but art was in the family. Jacobson's parents were both "hobby painters," he says.
"They were great golfers and fair painters. They were both lawyers," he adds. A sister is an interior designer.
The Snell & Wilmer collection features, almost exclusively, work by Arizona photographers or photographs made in Arizona by out-of-state photographers. Jacobson, who has, in his day, created other collections (including American drawings, African art and American "turned wooden bowls"; he also helped to organize Heard Museum's first show of paintings), chose Arizona photography because it was relatively inexpensive, and because no one else had done it.
Both ASU's Marilyn Zeitlin and Shelley Cohn, executive director of Arizona Commission on the Arts, say Jacobson is responsible for enhancing the value of Arizona photographers' work. Featured in the collection are images captured by more than 50 photographers, including locals Mark Klett, Jon Gipe and Barry Goldwater. Jacobson has also chosen unknown artists such as Jerry Walters, a Prescott mailman Jacobson knew as a child. Walters photographs simple scenes in his adopted hometown--a backyard, a modest living room.
One of the most striking series is by Craig Smith, who created a special, shadowless light box to photograph five umpires' and catchers' masks borrowed from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Subjects range from gorillas to tepees to "Big Shirley on Her Wedding Day," a 1977 black-and-white by Hal Martin Fogel, featuring a woman standing on South Mountain, at 2,330 feet, somber in her wedding dress and holding a bunch of flowers. She is, indeed, rather big.
Jacobson turns a corner and stops abruptly. He wants to be sure to mention that lawyers decorate their individual offices themselves. A few feet later, the enormous stuffed caribou hovering over partner Bob Hoskins' desk comes into view.
He pauses again, this time by a color photograph by Charles Braendle titled "Great Sand Dunes."
"Those are the sexiest sand dunes I have ever seen," Jacobson says, drawing his eyes over the pale, caramel waves in a mock leer.
Later, over lunch, Jacobson discusses the issue of choosing art for a work space. He says the firm gave him carte blanche, and "I never turned away from any piece of an artist's work . . . for censorship reasons."
While censorship was not an issue in his decision to purchase work, Jacobson does admit that he moved two photographs from the collection at the request of others. One was of a young woman in a bikini, standing--in a nonsuggestive pose--in front of a swimming pool. Staff members asked him to relocate the photograph because they thought the subject bore a remarkable resemblance to a woman on staff. The photograph now hangs in the "art closet," where work is stored.
The other photograph, which depicts a sad Christ on the cross, was moved from the wall outside an attorney's office to a public area after the attorney complained that the sight of the photo on such a regular basis was depressing.
Jacobson chuckles to himself, pondering censorship. There is, he admits, an Arizona photographer who makes some wonderful images of nude women in boxes. Would he dare to put such work before his colleagues' eyes? "I have asked myself--I've not answered myself yet--but I've asked myself. . . . I don't know the answer to that."
Maybe, Jacobson says, he "lucked out." The walls are full. So perhaps the question will never have to be answered. Like Lewis and Roca, Snell & Wilmer has, for now, stopped collecting.
@body:When O'Connor Cavanagh relocated in 1985, the firm owned "three pieces of Southwestern art and a few posters," says Hank Timmerman. He was one of three young partners assigned to establish an art collection for the firm.
It was accomplished, as Timmerman says, "in one fell swoop."
When Timmerman told a colleague from another firm of his plan to introduce his associates to 300 pieces of cutting-edge contemporary art, the colleague asked if Timmerman had any guarantee of job security.
He possessed a moderate but vicarious knowledge of art--his wife, Kate, worked at the time at Phoenix Art Museum. Unlike Jacobson and Lewis, Timmerman and his associates didn't consider themselves "art gurus." So O'Connor Cavanagh hired Joan Prior and John Armstrong, who took on the firm as their first consulting job. Prior and Armstrong spent a year traveling to regional art centers, picking more than 300 contemporary pieces to fill conference rooms and hallways.