Collectors on a Mission

October 2012 | BY | Fall 2012

Inside the Huberman Home
A hallway in the Huberman home includes a portrait painting by Norwegian artist Anne-Karin Furunes and a circles on canvas work by Washington Color School artist Tom Downing. CREDIT: Timothy Jacobsen

Contemporary art collectors Giselle and Benjamin Huberman have come back home. After years of splitting their time between Florida and Washington, D.C., they chose last year to return permanently to the National Capital area, back to the place where they launched impressive careers in law and government, and where they raised their children. Their new home, a large contemporary colonial in Potomac, Md., is a glittering showcase for the vast collection they’ve amassed during their marriage.

But the Hubermans are collectors on a mission: they see their four-story home as a place where art collectors and artists from around the world can meet and mingle, dance and dine together, and feast on their shared passion for the arts.

Ben and Giselle Huberman
The Hubermans relax with the family’s Lhasa-Poos Lilly and Billy, backed by a detail of a painting by Tom Downing. Credit: Timothy Jacobsen

“It’s really not about us at all,” says Giselle emphatically, “it’s about artists. Ben and I are passionate about the Washington art scene, and we want to emphasize the artists who live and work here.” They are strong supporters of the James Renwick Alliance, the Washington Project for the Arts and Artomatic, the D.C. area’s biggest annual multimedia arts event. The works of young Washington area artists such as Tim Tate, Michael Janis, Sean Hennessey and Chris Shea are displayed prominently throughout the house.

Dominating the airy, light-filled foyer is a sculptural tumble of copper blocks, a work the Hubermans commissioned from Washington artist Rick Wall. Warming the walls in their living and dining rooms are abstracts by famed Washington Color School artists Tom Downing, Howard Mehring, Paul Reed, Leon Berkowitz and Sam Gilliam. Virtually every space in the house is orchestrated so that works by Washington artists can sing.

That musical metaphor is apt, as both Giselle, who was born in Mexico City, and Ben, who was born in Cuba, play the piano. The pair sometimes accompany their guests in song at fundraisers they host; chief among the many causes they support is the James Renwick Alliance, of which Giselle is president-elect.

Large dinner parties are held on the top floor of the house. Guests are seated at one of five contemporary wood tables, including three copper and walnut ones handcrafted by Rick Wall, and two others from the studio of legendary American sculptor Wendell Castle. Often, following dinner, guests drift to the lower level of the house, where a polished wood floor is always ready for dancing.

“At this stage in our lives,” says Giselle, “supporting the arts is really what we want to do.” Nevertheless, both still maintain active careers.

An engineer by training, Ben has held high-level positions in the White House and currently serves as a Navy advisor at the Pentagon. Giselle, a linguist who once chaired the languages department at American University, transitioned into a career as a communications lawyer. She also co-owned multiple radio stations and still shares ownership of telecommunications towers.

Their work keeps them busy. But it is art, the couple readily admits, that keeps them excited. “It’s like breathing, it’s air,” says Giselle. “I need art to feel happy.”

For more of “Collectors on a Mission,” pick up a copy of the Fall issue of AmericanStyle magazine.

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