Love of art

James and Susan Dubin, one of the art world’s power couples, will be honored by the Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College April 25.

When James and Susan Dubin celebrated their wedding anniversary March 15, they continued their tradition of not giving each other gifts. Instead the Harrison couple selected a piece to add to a Modern and contemporary art collection that features works by David Hockney, Robert Rauschenberg, Jonathan Borofsky, John Henry and Dan Namingha, among others.

Jim, the executive chairman of Conair Corp. in Stamford, is more of a Modern than a contemporary art lover, although he says he’s also fond of their Chinese antiques. While she adores 17th-century Dutch landscapes as well, “Suse” — as he calls her affectionately — is taken with contemporary art for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the variety of media. She mentions Borofsky’s mixed media paper “Man With a Suitcase,” a textural silhouette of an everyman that seems to jump out of a wall in their Modern, light-filled Westchester home. But Susan, former features editor at Harper’s Bazaar, also finds appeal in the relevance of contemporary art.

“Many of the artists are still living. You can relate to what they are trying to bring about. They speak to something of their time.”

It’s not surprising then that Susan would become involved with the Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College, where she has been a member of the board of the Friends of the Neuberger for a quarter-century and is now its chairman. 

“I can’t believe it’s been 25 years. It’s like watching a bunch of kids grow up,” she says.

Jim, who got involved with the college and museum when Susan was asked to join the Friends, sits on the Neuberger’s finance board. Together, they’ll be honored for their support at the museum’s “Big Party” gala fundraiser scheduled for early fall.

Why choose the Neuberger for one of their philanthropic efforts? Start, Susan says, with its holdings, which began with a promised gift of 300 works from the dapper late financier Roy R. Neuberger (1903-2010) when the museum was founded in 1969.

“I was impressed by the sheer breadth of Roy’s collection, from mid-century masterpieces to the contemporary pieces to the art of the Americas and the African collection.”

Equally important, Jim adds, is the museum’s place in arts education: “I believe that when budget crises come along, the arts are pushed to the side. The Neuberger does so much outreach (to the underserved). It plays a very important role.”

Education is a passion with each. Jim is vice chairman of the board of governors of Tel Aviv University, which he calls “one of the best universities in Israel. Twenty-five percent of the students are Palestinians and Arabs. It has international programs. For me, this is a way to give back.” Susan used to sit on the board of the Solomon Schechter School of Westchester, now The Leffell School, which their two children attended. She is the daughter of educator Shirley Schraub, whose column “Ask the Teacher” was carried in the Gannett newspapers and the now-defunct McNaught Syndicate.

“Susan would say you should major in something that expands your mind,” Jim says, “then specialize in a career in graduate school.” To which Susan quickly adds, “when feasible. A liberal arts education is the best. But it’s not an option for everyone.”

They are like that — finishing each other’s thoughts, complementing each other.

“It’s true,” Jim says, “but I never looked at it that way.”

But Susan has always seen it, her creativity dovetailing with Jim’s business acumen. If you’re going into the arts, she says, it helps to have a relationship with someone who’s good with money.

Susan’s youthful interest in the arts — she grew up in Mamaroneck with parents who collected — embraced the humanities as well. While earning a bachelor’s degree from George Washington University, she served as a French-English, English-French translator for the United States Information Agency, an erstwhile diplomatic organization, and spent a year studying philosophy and literature at the Universite d’Aix-Marseilles in France. Her love of language served her well as a staff writer at House Beautiful and a contributing editor at Town and Country, as well as at Harper’s Bazaar, before she turned to freelancing.

Jim, who hails from Vermont, holds a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a juris doctor from Columbia Law School, where he served as an editor of the Columbia Law Review and was a Harlan Fiske Stone scholar. But even as a lawyer, he says, he was always interested in finance and quickly gravitated to corporate law. As a senior partner of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Harrison LLP, he was for many years chairman of the firm’s corporate department, a member of its management committee and chairman of its finance committee. While retired from Paul, Weiss, Jim sits on the boards of many corporations and nonprofits, including the Lighthouse Guild, a leading vision and health care organization.

Where these complements join forces is with a trio of twos — not only two children but two grandchildren and two houses, the other being in Snowmass, Colorado, where the couple’s tastes run more to art of the West, like the abstracted Southwestern landscapes of Namingha, a Hopi Indian.

There is one other member of the family — a Schnoodle named Coriander, Cori for short, who at 13 recently celebrated his “bark mitzvah” with 20 or so of the couple’s closest friends, Cori lovers all.

Still, when it comes to the artworks, Cori is kept at paw’s length.

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