still remembers the words a sage friend told him: "Your pictures
all talk to each other and have a different conversation when
each new picture enters the room."
friend was right, there are few pauses in the conversation
at Sokol's San Francisco home, where his prized collection
of some 600 19th- and 20th-century photographs take turns
competing for the chance to line the walls and join the dialogue.
a former partner of RCM Capital Management, began collecting
in 1989 - the 150th anniversary of photography's invention
- at a time when many museum exhibitions traveled the United
States, tracing the art form's history. Back then, Sokol says,
collecting was relatively affordable: Significant works could
be purchased for $10,000 or less compared with $50,000 or
more for comparable pieces today.
approach to collecting is a bit more haphazard than one might
expect from a self-described "methodical person." Each piece
must speak to him individually; there are no checklists of
artists to acquire or periods to include.
collection spans photographic history and has earned Sokol
spots on Art & Antiques magazine's list of the "Top
100 collectors" and Art News' list of the "Top 25 collectors."
From early pieces produced by British and French photographers
in the 1840s and 1850s to 20th century Modernist work, most
of his images share one thing: They tend to lack specificity
of time and place.
I've always been attracted to a Modernist abstract vision,"
Sokol says. "To me there's something exciting and hopeful
and optimistic about these pictures."
to his collecting, he serves as co-chair of the photography
committee for the American Friends of the Israel Museum and
as a member of the photography accessions committee at the
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
once snapped his own photos on vacation and at special events,
he has long since put away the camera. "When you are surrounded
by great vision you think, 'What do I need this for?'"