A Collector's Lesson

The Collection of Joseph Cicio

NEW YORK, NY -- An early and most cherished mentor taught me a very important lesson. While I prepared for my very first trip to Europe, she took me aside and said, "You have a great talent with a gifted eye. Whenever you travel you must buy yourself one beautiful something -- promise me you will do that." Though at the time I was only 22 and she in her early seventies, she confidently confided in me that I would go on to have an amazing career. How could she know that of a young boy from Brooklyn recently out of a Benedictine priory?

She was not done sharing her wisdom. "When you are near my age you will be living with a lifetime of beautiful acquisitions that you had gathered on your many trips to foreign lands," she said, "But it is not the things or the monetary value they might represent my young friend -- it is the memories you will hold forever." Of my future collection she said, "Many posessions will be found while in the company of cherished friends. Some will be gifts from those that love you. But all will, with a single glance, bring back the joy of each experience." And here we are some fifty years later. How true and valuable that lesson was. I think perhaps I learned it all too well, as it seems I have been collecting all my life.

Almost always when a guest entered my home, they focused on an object of interest and asked, "Where did you get that?" Of course, there was a story associated with each and every acquisition. So many that after years of encouragement, I finally compiled them in one place. My first book, "Friends Bearing Gifts," was published by Pointed Leaf Press. In it, I highlight many of the objects that have graced my homes over the years as well as the cherished relationships they represent. My wish was to inspire readers to collect the way I did -- joyfully acquiring beautiful things that keep safe my most treasured memories.

Can I ever look at the beautiful Metal Palm Trees in my living room without smiling as I remember how they came into my life? I was touring the French countryside one afternoon with a friend's daughter, who by the grace of God could speak French very well as I surely could not. We walked into a tiny antique shop and I immediately fell head-over-heels for these two amazing antique trees that appeared right in front of me. I relied on my companion to figure out the cost. Her conversation with the shop owner seemed to go on for hours as I waited impatiently, but finally they were mine. They have served as the showstopper in every home I lived in since.

I will never forget Bill Blass walking through my front door with a package under his arm saying brusquely, "Here this is is for your home. If you don't like it I want it back." How could I not like a gift from my friend? But again, the real treasure is being able to look back fondly on that moment in time. I hold dear my memories of Betty (Lauren Bacall) during our early morning coffee and doughnut sessions at her apartment in the Dakota. She loved gossip, as do I. So we shared stories and laughs constantly. The small mementos she gave me over the years still bring a big smile to my face as I recall those get-togethers.

I always loved auctions. I loved being there and watching the person I was bidding against. It's an exciting experience, especially if you have a friend at your side to share the fun -- or gloat over, in one particular instance. When a friend walked into my dining room for dinner one evening, my collection of uniquely-framed Intaglios stopped her in her tracks. "How did you get those? I was bidding on them and did not see you." With good reason, I told her, as I was bidding over the phone. I can picture the look on her face to this day.

Perhaps my favorite memory is of purchasing an amazing set of eight drawings Cocteau did of himself having a face lift. Though I had next to no money, I had to have it, so a dear friend at the time suggested I negotiate a payment schedule. It took me two years, but I finally brought Cocteau home! I love that my friend pushed me to go for it. She would say, "We only live once!" Every time I look at it I think of her and how nervous I was to make a big purchase.

My life has been blessed in so very many ways. As time went on, I learned another valuable lesson: we do not own these beautiful things forever. We are merely the caretakers of the objects that bring us joy; however, we will always keep the stories associated with them.

I have reached a new beginning in my life, and it's time for me to make new memories. I hope the objects I have collected bring as much joy and laughter to their new owners as they did to me. I often think how amazing it would be if our possessions could speak. What would Betty's silver cigarette box tell us? Who sat under Mona Bismarck's Palm Trees? Where did Bill Blass get that bird drawing? Most importantly, who will cherish these objects next?

The Collection of Joseph Cicio

Doyle is honored to auction the collection of Joseph Cicio on October 14, 2020 at 10am EDT.

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