- Associated Press - Saturday, December 25, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) - Roy R. Neuberger, a Wall Street investor who became one of the nation’s top modern art collectors, has died. He was 107.

Neuberger died Friday at his home in Manhattan’s Pierre Hotel, said Rich Chimberg, a spokesman for the Neuberger Berman firm.

Neuberger had survived Wall Street’s three major crises with enough money to build one of the largest private collections of major contemporary masterpieces.

He acquired hundreds of paintings and sculptures by such artists as Milton Avery, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Edward Hopper, Georgia O'Keeffe and others. But he never sold any work by a living artist, believing collectors should buy contemporary art and keep it, while giving the public access.

The works are now scattered at 70 institutions in 24 states _ many at the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, north of New York City.

At a White House ceremony in 2007, President George W. Bush presented him with a National Medal of Arts.

Neuberger was a consummate New Yorker, living in the city for a century after moving from his native Bridgeport, Conn.

He finished high school but dropped out of college to work for the department store B. Altman & Co. as an upholstery fabric buyer. During his two years there, he developed a taste for both art and business.

To get closer to the European scene he knew from books, Neuberger moved to Paris in 1924 on money inherited from his father. That’s where he decided to start collecting.

In his 1997 autobiography, “So Far, So Good: The First 94 Years,” he said that “to do so, I had to have capital of considerably more than the inheritance that gave me an annual income of about $2,000. … So I decided to go back to work in earnest.”

He got to Wall Street in the spring of 1929, as a runner for the brokerage firm Halle & Stieglitz.

Betting that the stock market might fall, Neuberger sold short on shares of the most popular stock then, Radio Corp. of America, and came out of the stock market crash losing only 15 percent of his money.

After becoming a stockbroker in 1930, he started his own firm with a partner, surviving the crash of 1987.

In 1996, “the Dow Jones industrial average had climbed to 5,704 and (his wife) Marie and I had had 64 wonderful years together,” he wrote. She died in 1997.

Neuberger published a second memoir, “The Passionate Collector,” in 2003.

He is survived by his daughter, Ann Neuberger Aceves; sons Roy S. Neuberger and James A. Neuberger; eight grandchildren; and 30 great-grandchildren.

A funeral was planned for Sunday at Manhattan’s Riverside Memorial Chapel.