Morris J. Pinto (1925–2009) Morris J. Pinto (1925–2009) By Paul Lewis Morris Pinto was a man with a profound sense of curiosity and a desire to discover and learn as much as he could about whatever interested him. He did not grow up with parents who collected, but as a young man he found himself drawn to art and discovered that certain sculptures and paintings could produce an instinctual and emotional reaction. Morris J. Pinto circa 1960s. His path as a collector began with paintings; his first acquisition of note was a 1934 Mondrian composition, bought in 1965 from Ernst Beyeler, the great Swiss gallerist. Soon after this, Morris met Daniel Cordier, the art dealer and hero of the French Resistance, who introduced him to the painter and sculptor Jean Dubuffet. Morris’s attention also began to turn at this time towards African sculpture, with which he felt the same profound emotional and intellectual resonance he experienced when confronted by the work of Dubuffet. The combination of African sculpture and Dubuffet paintings was at the heart of Morris’s collecting, as illustrated in a September 1967 article in Connaissance des Arts entitled “Une nouvelle façon de vivre avec l’art”—a new way of living with art. Morris’s admiration for Dubuffet was shared by Charles Ratton, who, with Dubuffet and André Breton, was a founder of the Compagnie de l’art brut. The encounter with Ratton proved a crucial one for Morris, and for several years they would talk daily. Through Ratton, unquestionably the doyen of African art dealers, Morris acquired many exquisite sculptures that illustrate the pinnacle of what William Rubin described as “the Guillaume-Ratton taste.” In his pursuit of the best, Morris also bought from other dealers and from fellow collectors. From the late Jean Roudillon, he acquired seven sculptures from the collection of the painter and poet René Mendès-France, including a sublime Luba bow stand by the artist known as the Warua Master. Morris’s innate curiosity and the thrill of discovery led him to explore other African art traditions, such as that of the Mumuye, which were first revealed to Europeans in the late 1960s and early 1970s; for a time, he owned the great Mumuye statue that is now in the Fondation Beyeler. Although perhaps best known for having owned many masterpieces of African art, Morris’s discerning eye was also drawn to Oceanic art. He owned the superb Solomon Islands shield recently sold in the auction of Michel Périnet’s collection, and he had a predilection for Maori art. Morris appreciated both the innate spiritual power of a great Maori object such as the koropata, or feeding funnel, once in his collection and now at LACMA, as well as the affinity between its elaborate surface carving and the intricate, interlocking forms of works from Dubuffet’s “l’hourloupe” cycle. Morris was by nature expansive in his approach to collecting, particularly after he moved in the mid-1960s to a magnificent apartment overlooking the Seine on the quai d’Orsay, where he had the space to collect on a grand scale. However, he was not driven by mere acquisitiveness—although, like many collectors, he thrilled at the chase—but rather by a deep and passionate desire to experience afresh the emotional response unlocked in an encounter with a great work of art. He was quick and decisive in his initial judgment of objects, but they were to be studied intently once in the collection. Morris’s daughter Jennifer recalls that he would often rearrange the collection; by looking at objects in different places and in relation to other works, he might perceive new resonances or some hitherto-undiscovered quality that could provoke discussion or contemplation. The painter Francis Bacon said that in his painting he sought to unlock sensation. In collecting great works of art, Morris Pinto achieved the same aim.