We spent an afternoon with attorney and collector Bertram Levy, awestruck by the depth and quality of the art on display at Arnall Golden Gregory law firm, high atop Atlantic Station.
With about 180 attorneys in Atlanta and Washington, D.C., AGG is known for transactional, litigation, healthcare, private wealth, real estate, corporate, regulatory and privacy counsel, and serves clients in a wide variety of industries. Levy’s practice is focused exclusively on complex wealth transfer planning for high net worth families, including charitable planning and sophisticated post-mortem administration; and he has special expertise with issues surrounding the transfer of large family business interests and succession planning.
The group he heads at AGG is preeminent. What also stands out about him, in the context of this article, is his knowledge and love of art. For the past 30 years, Levy has served on the firm’s art acquisition committee, which continues today.
Levy is actively engaged in a number of community and philanthropic endeavors. He has been chairman of the board of the Piedmont Healthcare Foundation for nine years. He also sits on the boards of the High Museum of Art and the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, among others.
Why would a firm or company go to such great lengths and expense to decorate an office?
In a May 2017 Undercover Recruiter article, “7 Reasons Why Office Décor Matters,” the study found that “97% of workers consider their workplace a symbol of whether or not they are valued by employers.” In addition, the study found “Few American workplaces are optimized for success – Nearly half of workers say that their workplace design and décor [have] no personality. On top of this only one in four would be proud to show their office to their family and friends.
Not so at 171 17th Street, the AGG Law office.
Levy said, “Our focus here is contemporary works on paper by 20th and 21st century artists and master photographers. We only buy things that are shown and curated in museums. We have about 250 pieces spread out over several floors.”
Walk the halls with Bert Levy.
Jaffe: How would you describe what we are seeing on site?
Levy: We are very cognizant of the space here and the wonderful views and natural light. When we began collecting years ago, we were moving from a more traditional space downtown with oriental rugs, heavy furniture, and hunt scene paintings, which made no sense here in more modern offices. We worked with a curator at the High Museum of Art to establish focused collecting areas. We placed the photography in the hallways where one can get close up, and the larger works on paper in the lobbies and conference rooms. Robert Rauschenberg, Richard Serra, Jim Dine, Frank Stella, David Hockney, Jasper Johns, and Judy Pfaff are some of the larger and more prominently positioned works.
Jaffe: Is the AGG collection still evolving?
Levy: Quarterly we do rotate art with different shows. In our multipurpose room, we currently have the works of a local artist Jerry Siegel. In collecting art, one is never done. We are continually evaluating the space. And, of course, find value in supporting local artists.
Jaffe: Do you ever buy on impulse and see something inspirational, perhaps while traveling to acquire?
Levy: We chiefly buy through dealers. On occasion, we go outside that framework. I once toured the Museum of Modern Art in New York and saw the work of a Turkish photographer, who by chance had no U.S. representation; that appealed to me. But that was an unusual occurrence.
Jaffe: What here are your favorites?
Levy: If I had to chose, I would say the Donald Judd diptych; and the Alex Katz “Red Cap”  is a stunner. Overall, I am a devotee of Roy Lichtenstein. Here we have his “American Indian Theme II” , woodcut.
A large rather colorful lobby piece, which attracts a lot of attention, is “Nine Pointed Stars” 1996 portfolio of 36 prints by Sol LeWitt.
Certainly, a conversation piece is the cerulean Andy Warhol “Teddy Roosevelt”  screen print. It is positioned by an original letter from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to then [Georgia] Gov. Ellis Arnall [1943-47]. Note that the art and letter are not related, just juxtaposed.
Jaffe: You’re an Atlanta native with quite a family tree.
Levy: I did go to Northside High School, but I think you are referring to the fact that I have two sets of great-great-grandparents dating back to shortly after the Civil War here.
Jaffe: Bottom line: What boon is it to a law firm to invest in this type of art?
Levy: We strive for a stimulating work environment that mirrors our services, which are both creative and of the highest quality.