Oregon Art Beat

This secret Portland warehouse holds over 20,000 pieces of art

By Eric Slade (OPB)
Jan. 7, 2024 2 p.m.

The art is loaned out, free of charge, to museums across the country

You may have driven past this bland, unmarked warehouse in Northwest Portland, never guessing what’s inside. Nothing about its simple exterior reveals that it’s home to one of the region’s most impressive collections of art.


Inside are more than 20,000 pieces by some of the most important names in post-war art including Roy Lichtenstein, Helen Frankenthaler, Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol. (The warehouse holds one of the world’s largest collections of work by Warhol.) This is the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation collection, housed in a state-of-the-art, 50,000-square-foot climate-controlled facility and cared for by 11 full-time staff members.

But unlike most private collections, this artwork is regularly loaned out to museums across the country, free of charge. Jordan Schnitzer has been assembling this impressive collection for decades but he says his passion for collecting art is wildly exceeded by his desire to share it. “The only pressure I have is to get the work out …We totally serve the public.”

Schnitzer was born into a world of art. His mother, Arlene Schnitzer, opened the Fountain Gallery in 1961, one of Portland’s first professional galleries. As a teenager, Schnitzer recalls, “I would go to the openings at the gallery every month or two. And it was a fun time for me … it was exciting. So it was only natural for me to sort of follow in those footsteps.” His first purchase, at age 14, was a small painting by Portland artist Louis Bunce. And the collection grew from there. “I just began to have art around the house and just became so enamored with the incredible artists we have in the Pacific Northwest.”

Jordan’s father, Harold, started Harsch Investment Properties in Portland in the 1950s. Today, Jordan continues to run the company (recently renamed Schnitzer Properties) with investment properties throughout the West. While the demands of real estate keep him busy, his focus never wanders far from the world of art.

Schnitzer’s collection focuses on prints and multiples. (Multiples are a limited-edition series of identical art objects, usually signed and numbered). The collection’s presence has given Portland added gravity in the world of art, according to independent curator Bruce Guenther. “We have become an important stop in the study of post-war art because of the Schnitzer collection.”


The warehouse ships out around 20 full shows a year, each one featuring anywhere from 25 to 200 pieces of art. The past year has featured major shows by artists Marie Watt, Helen Frankenthaler, Jeffrey Gibson, Andy Warhol, Kara Walker, and many others.

In 2022, The Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education put together a show titled Judy Chicago Turning Inward, made up entirely of works from the Schnitzer Collection. “The idea that you do not have to pay a rental fee — I can’t even begin to describe the pressure that that takes off museums,” said former museum director Judy Margles.

David Hockney, "Gregory in the Pool," 1978, Collection of the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation

David Hockney, "Gregory in the Pool," 1978, Collection of the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation

courtesy of the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation

An extensive David Hockney print retrospective at The Honolulu Museum of Art (November 17, 2023 — March 10, 2024) includes 142 pieces drawn from the Schnitzer Collection. Staff at the collection worked for “over a year, prepping all the work for that show,” according to collections director Catherine Malone. “It takes multiple people to handle and move the work around the warehouse — it can be quite a challenge.”

Schnitzer has made a point of acquiring art that spans an artist’s full career, making the collection both broad and deep. Work by Warhol, for instance, doesn’t just feature his iconic Marilyn Monroe images, “which anyone would recognize,” says Malone, but also features “very early work from his days of being a graphic artist.”

As Schnitzer puts it, “If the Portland Art Museum called up and said, ‘we want to do a Lichtenstein show,’ I’d say, ‘OK, I’ve got some early work from 1952 when he was just teaching, and 270 works all the way through the 1997 Tel Aviv benefit print. And every period in between. It’s all framed. When do you want it?’”

Part of Schnitzer’s goal is to get the work out to smaller museums with modest budgets. “There must be maybe five or six or 7,000 people a day that go through our exhibitions,” he says. “That makes me feel good … to help get amazing work to museums that otherwise would probably not be able to have these exhibitions.”

While the collection continues to grow, Schnitzer maintains his fascination with each new piece. “I still find myself as taken away when I see all this art,” he says. “There’s still that same joy from the first moment I saw that print in my mother’s soon-to-be open gallery. It’s the most joyous thing.”

Jordan Schnitzer and The Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation are contributors to OPB.