STAMFORD, Conn. -- Walter Bareiss, a businessman who was one of the first significant Western collectors of African art, died Monday at age 87, his son said.
Hugh Bareiss said his father died at Stamford Hospital. He had pneumonia and congestive heart failure, according to The
Mr. Bareiss, briefly interim director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, also collected Western classical and contemporary art.
"His interest in art was insatiable," Hugh Bareiss said.
Mr. Bareiss and his wife, Molly Stimson Bareiss, had a collection of more than 800 African objects that is now on view at the Birmingham Art Museum in Alabama. He became interested in African art when, as part of the Museum of Modern Art's young collectors club in 1948, he was asked to bid on several pieces on the museum's behalf. He was struck by how unappreciated African art seemed at the time.
The couple's African collection is primarily from Central Africa, particularly Congo. But he also collected pieces from Angola, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Rwanda, which at the time were largely ignored by collectors and museums.
At its height, the Walter and Molly Bareiss collection included more than 9,000 works.
Mr. Bareiss bought his first Picasso etching using his birthday money when he was 13. He was born in Germany and immigrated to the United States in 1937.