Razzin’ Aggie

(Photo courtesy of Maloney Fine Art)

Each Armory week for the past 11 years, collectors Susan and Michael Hort have opened the doors of their Tribeca penthouse to share Sunday brunch, and their impressive contemporary art collection, with hundreds of their closest acquaintances. This past year saw 2,000 people stop by their home over the week, and one or two of you may have noticed a printed email correspondence taped to the outside of a door to the terrace. The first message, at the bottom of the page, was sent by an organizer of VIP events for the Armory Show and reads, a bit unclearly:

“The gund [sic] was hand-picked so unfortunately you were not chosen”

The response, from Ms. Hort herself, appears right at the top of the page.

“Tell Agnes that she is welcome in our home, and even has a special bench just for her.”

Though the note requires some deciphering, anyone could see that it was addressed to the major collector and philanthropist Agnes Gund, and on Sunday the bench was easy enough to spot, too. Out on the sunny terrace it sat, a piece by the artist Danny First that read, on the upright portion, “ON HOLD FOR A BIGGER COLLECTOR THAN YOU.”

Part of the joke, Mr. Hort explained Monday via telephone, is that Ms. Gund is a bigger collector than he is.

“Have you ever been to her apartment?” he asked. “It’s a beautiful duplex, filled with Picassos and all that. That stuff is worth 20, no, a hundred times more than the things we collect.”

This year, Ms. Gund decided to host a brunch of her own, a hot ticket for which applicants were required to list their names. Only some 50 people were selected, and Susan Hort and her daughter-in-law Jamie were notified of their rejection by the curt note that referred to the event, economically, as “the gund.” Mr. Hort said there are no hard feelings especially since they only know each other so well anyway (“I’d recognize her on the street, but she wouldn’t recognize us, I don’t think”).

Mr. Hort, however, said he couldn’t pass on this opportunity to hammer home the message of the bench, which “just pokes fun at the pomposity of art collectors.”

What would he have done if Ms. Gund had shown up?

“It would have been fine,” Mr. Hort said. “We would have shown her to her bench, and we’d have been very polite.”

Razzin’ Aggie