Duncan, Karen and Robert

Devoted collectors Karen and Robert Duncan share the story of their 2000+ piece art collection, and explain why “investment potential” is the least compelling reason to acquire a new work.

“It is important to meet and know the artists we’ve collected. We really make an effort to try to do that, and, to a large extent, we know a lot of them. We’d rather have dinner with a bunch of artists than anybody we can think of.”

Karen & Robert Duncan are longtime art collectors living in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Duncans, now married for approximately forty-five years, first met while in junior high school in their shared hometown of Clarinda, Iowa. Through his work for the family-owned business Duncan Aviation, Robert Duncan joined the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO), an international network of young chief executives. Through his participation in YPO he and Karen began traveling, visiting a high number of art galleries and museums, and meeting other art collectors. Karen Duncan, a musician in high school, became head of the Nebraska Chamber Orchestra after the couple moved to Lincoln, and eventually joined the board of the Sheldon Museum of Art. The Duncans bought their own first work of art, an Impressionist painting, while on a YPO trip in Madrid in the late 70s. They also collect, among other items, first edition books, pie birds, and bicycles. They are currently renovating Clarinda’s Carnegie Library to transform it into a museum for the city and Southwest Iowa. With fellow Nebraskans Kathy and Marc LeBaron, the Duncans operate Assemblage Gallery in Lincoln, a private exhibition space showing work from their respective collections, and a by-invitation residency in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.