Los Angeles–based art-collecting couple Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser have been coming to Hawai‘i for decades, and this year their trip included an intimate gallery talk at the Honolulu Museum of Art on Oct. 21 about their glass works in the exhibition Form from Fire: Gifts of Contemporary Glass from the Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser Collection (which just closed yesterday, sorry!).

Some people are just a kick to be around—and Greenberg and Steinhauser are two of those kinds of people. Smart and accomplished (he owns massive rental company Electro Rent and she is an energy and legislative attorney and sits on the California Arts Council), they get a kick out of collecting and they get a kick out of life, and that energy translated to a lively talk on glass art and collecting. The museum invited glass artist and University of Hawai‘i associate art professor Rick Mills and his current crop of students to the talk, and the two special guests spent one on one time chatting with aspiring artists.

The couple told the story of how they started collecting—beginning with ceramics, they moved on to glass in the late 1960s. “We started collecting young,” said Greenberg. “We would spend no more than $100 on a piece.” As their disposable income—and glass knowledge—grew, so did their collection. For 20 years they selected glass works that reveal the incredible variety of techniques used in contemporary glass making. They were drawn to work that has a cool, architectural tone, eschewing the wild sculptural pyrotechnics that started to come into vogue in the 1980s.

Greenberg’s collecting is guided by a “feeling from the gut—the beauty, strength, excitement of the piece.”

Steinhauser encouraged aspiring collectors to adopt what she calls the “mingling mentality”—cultivate relationships with museums, show a commitment to the medium. And she in turn told students to “develop relationships with collectors.”

The couple give back not only through museums, but by helping foster creative communities by funding education initiatives. In Hawai‘i they created the Susan Steinhauser and Daniel Greenberg Pilchuck Scholarship at the University of Hawai‘i, which enables students to attend the famed Pilchuck Glass School in Washington State.

Greenberg calls himself and his wife “serial collectors,” and they have been giving away their glass collection to museums such as LACMA, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston over the last few years. The Honolulu Museum of Art received its gift last year. (The couple had previously donated 35 wood objects to The Contemporary Museum in 2008.) Greenberg commended contemporary art curator James Jensen’s selections from what he called “the dregs” of their collection. So with glass in the been-there-done-that category, what do they now set their collecting sights on? “Our real love is photography,” says Greenberg, and they are also adding to their collection of Neolithic Chinese jade.

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UH glass students examining Steinhauser-Greenberg glass work

UH glass students examining Steinhauser-Greenberg glass work

Susan Steinhauser and glass artist Rick Mills

Susan Steinhauser and glass artist Rick Mills