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Instinct Is a Powerful Force, in Acting and Art-Buying


The actress Lois Robbins is currently starring in a one-woman show that she wrote, “L.O.V.E.R.,” which is onstage Off Broadway at Pershing Square Signature Center. The show is billed as “one woman’s confession of what goes on behind closed doors and between the sheets.”

Ms. Robbins is not shy about sharing her life in art, either. She and her husband, Andrew Zaro, a financial services executive, have amassed a collection numbering more than 100 pieces, by such names as Jeff Koons, Anish Kapoor and Wayne Thiebaud.

In her collecting, as in her stage work, Ms. Robbins lets instinct guide her. She recalled the day she and her husband visited the studio of the sculptor Carole Feuerman and fell in love with a couple of pieces. Ms. Feuerman said she would love to see where the sculptures would go.

Ms. Robbins said they told her, “We’re heading out to the beach right now. If you don’t have much going on this weekend, you can come with us.” But on the Long Island Expressway, en route to the couple’s home in the Hamptons, Ms. Robbins said, “Carole goes, ‘I’m so sorry, what are your names again?’”

She explained, “I don’t know, you could be fake art collectors abducting me for the weekend.’” No charges were filed, and a friendship was born.

As an actress, Ms. Robbins is often associated with a role from long ago — Dr. Concetta D’Angelo Ryan — on the soap “Ryan’s Hope.” She has appeared in other TV shows (recently on “Younger”), in the theater (“Cactus Flower”) and movies, including a 2018 adaptation of Henry James’s “The Aspern Papers.”

That diversity of tone and style is reflected in her collecting, too. “We’re very into hyperrealism,” she said, mentioning works by Evan Penny. There’s a photorealist painting by Marilyn Minter over the tub in the master bath. Elsewhere are painterly abstractions by Hans Hoffmann and Cecily Brown; opposite the Hoffmann in the living room, each presiding over a marble fireplace mantel, is a female nude by Tom Wesselmann, “Claire 2/21/97.

“I have a lot of lady art around my house,” Ms. Robbins said.

A few hours before a 7:30 p.m. curtain, Ms. Robbins talked about her collecting — and regrets, of which she’s had a few — in an interview. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

We’re flanked by these colorful, gestural pieces over the fireplaces.

The Hans Hoffmann is from the Phoenix series that he did. I loved that because I just loved that a phoenix rises. The symbolism really appeals.

What’s the connection for you between collecting and acting?

Well, I certainly have an appreciation for the work that goes into creating a work of art. But you see that Wesselmann? It needs more air around it. Paintings need room so you can appreciate their nature. Just like how some theaters are great for certain kinds of plays, because it’s the right distance between the audience and the performance.

How do you think about the parameters of your art-buying?

It’s changing, and really evolving a lot. I think over time and as we’ve matured, there are things we’re getting ready to sell and replace, because we didn’t buy them wisely and weren’t advised correctly.

Such as?

There’s one painting we have, I got it at auction, and I don’t know why I bought it. I think I was “auction-happy.” Now we’re being well-advised by someone else, for the past year. Our first purchase since then is this Wesselmann, which I think is sexy.

I like that you can say, “Hey, this didn’t work, we’ll try again.”

It’s fine, I was learning. I joined the painting and sculpture committee at the Whitney, and I’ve been there for several years. And over time I’ve realized you’ve got to buy the best of an artist’s work.

You can’t just buy the name, you mean?

Right. I have a George Condo here, it’s a lovely painting, but I need to upgrade. I think it was about what we were willing to spend at the time. As things change in your life, you start to realize this is an area you’d like to do more in. We’re going to really take our time and make sure that the things we’re buying are things we want to live with.


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