From Equities To Expressionists

To art world regulars, Robert E. Mnuchin is a familiar figure. The former Goldman, Sachs & Co. partner--who pioneered institutional-equity trading in the 1960s and retired as co-head of trading in 1990, at 56--has been buying art most of his life. He and his wife, Adriana, started out with a Picasso print and ended up with dozens of paintings by Rothko, Still, Marden, Twombly, and Johns that are worth millions. "The prime force is--I love it," he blurts out over breakfast in a coffee shop on New York's Upper East Side.

Mnuchin has run out of room at home for those Abstract Expressionist paintings, but he hasn't stopped buying. The "coach," as he was known at Goldman, is now buying them for others. Last January, he and art dealer James Corcoran opened C&M Arts. "I always had a yen to do it," he says. "I knew art and the pricing, and that's been confirmed"--C&M Arts is turning a profit, though he won't give numbers.

Mnuchin is also the No.1 investor in a limited partnership he began raising money for a year ago, "when the mood was terrible," to invest in seven-figure works by the same artists. Again, Mnuchin claims he's in the money: The fund "earned an attractive rate of return" in 1993, which he will probably match in '94. "These artists are [selling] at levels that have a significant floor underneath them," he says.

Mnuchin's third new foray, the 24-room Mayflower Inn and conference center in Connecticut, isn't yet in the black. But that's not stopping the couple's art adventures. Adriana, a trustee of the Whitney Museum, now collects photographs, particularly female nudes. As for Mnuchin, "I have my fix hunting paintings for C&M," he says.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.