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Summary: An interview with Jon Shirley conducted 2018 August 7-8, by Mija Riedel, for the Archives of American Art and the Center for the History of Collecting in America at the Frick Art Reference Library of The Frick Collection, at Shirley's home in Medina, Washington.
Mr. Shirley recalls hiring architect George Suyama to design a 23,000-square-foot home to house the art collection Shirley was assembling with his wife, Mary; growing up in Honolulu, Philadelphia, and Puerto Rico as his father was in the military; an influential humanities class at the Hill School; discovering Alexander Calder while still in high school; studying at MIT; his 25-year tenure with Radio Shack and Tandy International Electronics stores; a five-year period in Brussels that expanded his knowledge of art; his and Mary's move to Seattle and subsequent engagement with art glass and Pilchuck; becoming president of Microsoft and taking the company public; the evolution of his Alexander Calder collection to 40+ works (what has been called the best privately held Calder collection in the U.S.); his 30+ year friendship with Chuck Close, collecting more than 30 of his works, and financing "The Portrait Speaks;" his long-term engagement with the Seattle Art Museum and in particular the founding and endowing of the Olympic Sculpture Park; Mary's death in 2013 and Shirley's subsequent remarriage to Kim Richter; and endeavoring to restore Calder's only posthumously made work, "Mountain and Clouds," in the Hart Senate Office Building. Shirley also recalls working with Robert Mnuchin, Anthony Grant, Sandy Rower, Tobias Meyer, Robert Storr, Patterson Sims, Arne Glimcher, Jinny Wright, Barney Ebsworth and the Pace Gallery; acquiring works by Magdalena Abakanowicz, Jesús Moroles, Marino Marini, Mark Rothko, Gerhard Richter, Mark di Suvero, Claes Oldenburg, David Smith, Joan Mitchell, Korean Dansaekhwa artists, Constantin Brancusi ("Bird in Space") and Alberto Giacometti ("Dog"); and building a collection of 350+ works of sculpture and post-WWI paintings.