For years I’ve heard rumors about a Pacific Beach man who has quietly amassed an unparalleled collection of local mid-century art. As the local lore went, he bought so much art in the 1950s and 1960s that his collection filled almost every inch of wall inside three sizable apartments.
I always assumed the story was just too incredible to be true.
I was wrong.
Walter Pomeroy bought his first piece of art in 1956 – a large painting of acrobats by Fred Holle. An engineer with an OK salary, he kept buying art from the likes of John Baldessari, Richard Allen Morris, Guy Williams and other artists who lived in San Diego at the time. More attracted to artists than the work itself, he said he purchased art mostly to support creative people he liked. He never considered himself a “collector with a capital ‘C'” as he put it.
“I mean, it’s not just an art collection,” he said as I toured the collections. “As you see, there are thousands of CDs. There are 10,000 books downstairs. There are Swatch watches, perfume bottles – so I buy things, but they do have a cultural aspect to them. … I never intended to be an art collector, though. I just met these artists in the Spanish Village, liked them and went down there when I had some money in my pocket and bought something off the walls.”
Pomeroy, 82, said he recently started looking for new homes for some of his art. A few years ago, he invited the Oceanside Museum of Art to pick out some pieces. Mark Elliott-Lugo, the founder and curator of the San Diego Public Library’s visual art program who’s since retired, got wind of OMA’s impending acquisition and made sure he got to pick through Pomeroy’s collection first.