He entered law school, graduated in 1972, and came to the Twin Cities to serve as a clerk for a law firm, eventually working his way up to managing partner of Maslon Edelman Borman & Brand. Weinstein is not interested in talking much about this phase of his life, which ended four years ago. Instead, he mentions how he started collecting art in the late 1970s, and how in the early 1980s he began donating much of his collection to the art museums in town. "Ninety percent of what I made, I gave to the museums," he says.
Many of the photographs, which included works by August Sanders, Thomas Frederick Arndt, and Cornell Capa, had great significance to the art world--so much so that the Minneapolis Institute of Art mounted an exhibition with a catalog titled "Martin Weinstein's Gifts to the Photography Collection" in 1992.
Christian Peterson, associate curator of photography at the MIA, describes Weinstein's contributions in grateful terms. "Of local collectors, Martin is one of the two most generous contributors to the collection," he says.
"People ask me why," Weinstein says of his philanthropy. "I just loved sharing with people. I don't really know the answer. I've been asked over and over... I am not now, nor ever have been, a wealthy person..."
Though Weinstein's persistent references to the beauty of his shows may seem like so much sales spin, he surely would have been better compensated staying with law than running a gallery. In a decidedly noncommercial vein, Weinstein has collaborated for two years with the nonprofit Rain Taxi Reading Series, hosting appearances by such avant-garde poets and writers as Arthur Sze, Rikki Ducornet, and Franz Wright.
"We loved his space," says Rain Taxi editor Eric Lorberer. "There's a sort of Zen-like austereness to the space, and we thought it was the perfect setting for certain kinds of writers."
Their collaboration aside, Lorberer is struck by Weinstein's talent as a collector. "The thing I respect most about him is that he's got an incredibly keen eye for photography. I've seen him spot things in a thrift store and recognize the value even without a signature or any museum context."
As the afternoon draws on, Donna Miller, a part-time sales associate at the gallery, arrives eager to see the work. She stands out of the way of the shuffling and repositioning.
"I'm amazed," says Miller. "We talk about the art, but when it actually comes in it is always more beautiful than we expect."
In time, the final arrangement is decided. The Art Serve crew begins taking measurements--each painting will be positioned at a centerline of 59 inches from the floor--and then hangs the work, keeping a strict measurement of 24 inches between piece.
"Look at that," says Weinstein after Bob Mendel has placed a triptych on the wall. His voice is excited. "When it goes onto a wall, it really changes the pieces."
About 20 minutes later, all of the works have been placed, and everyone steps away to get a sense of how it all looks. No one says anything, but all seem satisfied.
"Now I'll come back at ten at night," says Weinstein. "And I'll change the show." There is the briefest of pauses. He laughs. "See. I'm going to give Bob a heart attack!"
And,then, finally, the show opens with a Friday-evening party. Flanking the building like a sentry when I arrive is a guy in a black Italian-cut suit talking into a cell phone. The crowd inside the gallery is not terribly heavy--about sixty people milling about in the two rooms. Weinstein almost immediately picks me out of the crowd
"You should have been here at 7:30," he says. "It was hard to get in the door. I'd say there were three or four hundred people here." He points to the artist, says he'll introduce me to her later, and then heads off to mingle with a group of well-dressed younger people.
The crowd is diverse by age: People in their 20s mingle with people in their late 40s and 50s (there are oddly few people in their 30s). Most are stylishly dressed in the same muted colors and tones as the photos. There are a few anomalous art-school types too, wearing brown and pink thrift-store clothes. They write in their sketchbooks, presumably a homework assignment given by a professor eager to encourage his students to venture out into the dwindling gallery scene.
"I'm running for public office," says a man in a blue window-check jacket (which I think I've recently seen in a GQ ad) to a woman near the food table.
"You are?" she says, astonished.
"No, just kidding," he says.
I walk into the other room of the gallery then--the one without food--which is almost empty of people. The gallery layout is just as it was on Wednesday--no midnight changes by Weinstein after all. As I take out my own notepad, I'm approached by a young man incongruously dressed in a slate-gray sharkskin suit and a pinkish T-shirt that says "excitement" on it. The T-shirt was apparently once white, but seems to have been accidentally washed with something red.