URBAN TACTICS: The Trash Can School

The New York Times
Published: October 8, 2006

JOSH SAPAN is hardly the first business executive to amass a sprawling collection of art. But Mr. Sapan does not acquire works from high-end auction houses like Sotheby's and Christie's.


He finds his treasures on the streets and sidewalks of Manhattan, where he has prowled for years with downcast eyes, ready to rescue abandoned gems from the hydraulic crush of the sanitation truck. ''It saddens me to see great work literally go to the garbage,'' said Mr. Sapan, chief executive of Rainbow Media Holdings, a cable television programming company.

A tall, lean 55-year-old, Mr. Sapan estimates that his collection of discarded art includes hundreds of items. Having collected them in earnest for about four years, he ran out of room in his 3,700-square-foot apartment on the East Side and his summer house on Shelter Island. ''Plus,'' he admitted, ''my wife got tired of some of them.'' So he has been stashing much of the collection at Manhattan Mini Storage on the West Side, although his rented bin, he said, is nearly ready to burst.

Mr. Sapan's Midtown office is decorated with discarded paintings and photographs, and lately some of his favorite works have found a new showcase: a Web site he set up, www, which serves as a virtual museum. A viewer can flip through post-Impressionist-style landscapes, brooding portraits and precisely executed Cubist studies, all of them cast off by their creators or owners, sometimes on the last day of class at art schools, or else retrieved from yard sales and junk stores.

While it would be easy to assume that art taken from trash bags and Dumpsters might have been better left uncollected, Mr. Sapan believes in the works he has rescued. ''I personally think they are beautiful,'' he said, ''and I hope ultimately there is a nice destiny for the art.'' KEVIN DELANEY

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