Collectors: The Abstract Businessman

The British critic Sir Kenneth Clark wrote once that he understood a certain private collection of Fragonard's rococo oils when he looked at the same owner's collection of butterflies. The collector's eye had plainly drawn strength from the kinship of fragrant, fluttery forms in art and nature. To pin down the taste of California Entrepreneur Norton Simon, 57, the most discriminating art collector on the West Coast (see color pages), is a similar exercise in analogy. But Simon's other collection is companies.

He began as head of Hunt Foods and Industries, the world's...

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