The pleasure we associate with our most treasured possessions is closely associated with the memories of how and where we acquired them, as well as with the connection and context these objects have to one another.
The collector and philanthropist John J. Lanzendorf credits his love for art and artifacts at least in part to his possessing an inherent “black belt” in acquisition. From an early age, Lanzendorf took pleasure in admiring an object, and acquiring it.
“I was raised in Northern Wisconsin,” Lanzendorf recollects. “While my father was hunting in the outdoors, I would accompany my mother antiquing.”
Lanzendorf is recognized internationally for his work as a hairstylist to the famous and well heeled: he has counted among his clients and friends Rita Hayworth, Agnes Moorhead, and Bea Arthur, as well as Bette Midler, Rita Moreno, and Angela Lansbury.
But through the decades of professional success, his personal passion has always been collecting.
An early interest of Lanzendorf’s was dinosaurs: he was introduced to the prehistoric saurians by toys pictured on cereal boxes. His collection of childhood dinosaur toys blossomed into a passion for art and relics inspired by the great reptiles.
Chicago based Lanzendorf amassed one of the world’s largest collections of Paleo and dinosaur artwork. The John J. Lanzendorf Collection of PaleoArt, which was previously exhibited at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, is now held by the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and is on display in its permanent Dinosphere exhibition.
Today, through numerous philanthropic endeavors, John J. Lanzendorf continues to recognize outstanding achievement in the arts.
The Lanzendorf National Geographic PaleoArt Prize was established to promulgate paleontological scientific illustration and naturalistic art. It is the only art award presented by the scientific community that specifically recognizes accomplishments in paleontological visualization.
As well as the relics of the Cretaceous and other prehistoric periods, Lanzendorf collects the treasures of Asia. Over the course of decades, he filled his Chicago Gold Coast home with rare Indian miniature paintings, centuries old Chinese porcelain, Ming Dynasty bronzes, Khmer and Rattanakosin period Buddhas, along with rarities from India, Thailand, and Burma.
For Lanzendorf, ancient art and artifacts should be displayed to promote a harmonious symphony. At auctions, private sales, and in the ancient places themselves, Lanzendorf added to his collection objets d’art, monumental furniture, temple and shrine devotional items, paintings and sculptures—each of them offering a glimpse of the diversity of cultures and genres to which he is drawn.
Gathered over a lifetime, The Collection of John J. Lanzendorf reflects the man’s enduring passion for Asian art. Highlights of the collection include:
An early Thai, Lopburi Period c. 12th century bronze Buddha statue, with strong Khmer influences and rich antique patination
An exemplary c. 12th century bronze figure of Narasimha, a lion headed avatar of Vishnu, one of the principal divinities of Hinduism
A 17th century Nayak Dynasty sculpture of the baby Krishna, cast in a rich dark bronze copper alloy
A 17th Century Indian Mughal Period miniature painting depicting a hunting scene with allegorical motifs, including an elephant, leopards, rabbits, lions, an angel and a princess
A Thai c. 18th century archaized depiction of the Emaciated or Starving Buddha, with a profusion of applied gold lacquer
An exceptionally detailed fine 19th Century Qing Dynasty Mandarin ancestral portrait, depicting a senior Imperial official wearing a richly ornamented court dress, and large embroidered Mandarin square badge on his chest featuring a crane
A large Qing Dynasty Northern Chinese altar table, with unusual Shanxi provincial legs, incised carved decoration of flora and naturalistic shapes, and scrolling wing top