Trained as a psychiatrist, Dr. Paul Singer is best remembered for his wide-ranging Chinese art collection, which he assembled largely at a time when American contact with China was severely restricted. Born in Hungary in 1904 and raised in Austria, Singer made his first purchase of East Asian art at the age of seventeen. He collected most aggressively after he immigrated to this country in 1939, making discoveries at art dealers, auction houses, and thrift stores alike. By the time of his death in 1997, Singer’s holdings had grown to some five thousand objects, mostly Chinese works of art, that he displayed in his modest two-bedroom apartment in Summit, New Jersey.
The Singer collection is particularly strong in ancient ceramics, metalwork, and jades. He referred to Chinese archaeological findings as a guide in building his holdings. He was also drawn to the unique and surprising, hoping that archaeologists would eventually prove them to be authentic. As he recalled, “A fairly large portion of my collection, acquired in the distant past, consists of objects that had been rejected by experts. Those same pieces were later recognized as being genuine as a result of information provided by archaeological excavations.
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Website