It is always a treat to visit with local attorney and art collector Jim Mounger at his beautiful art-filled Uptown home, especially during the holidays. Ever the consummate host — his holiday parties are spectacular — even dropping by the day after for a glass of wine is filled with fun conversation, a few laughs, and of course, great musings about his vast and wonderful art collection. And although I'm sitting amongst important works, I always feel right at home. As Jim is quick to say, "Don't worry about making yourself comfortable. If anyone spills a glass of red wine, it will be me!"
For Christmas, local designer Bently Graham decorated the magnificent Chihuly installation in the center hall with a cluster of festive and sparkly trees. With the sculpture's vibrant colors and exuberant tentacles — 350 pounds of individual blown glass pieces hanging from cables — it is a stunning focal point as you enter the home. When Jim purchased the Queen Anne house, it had been chopped into four separate apartments and was in desperate need of a renovation. By removing old walls and sheetrocking new ones, Jim was able to create sizable gallery-like "rooms" for his large-scale paintings, sculptures, and objets d'art. As he explains, "I wanted wide, open spaces to hold my art and enough room to be able to stand back to look at it." The plan works perfectly.
In one living room flanking the hall, the collection includes a deeply-hued study of a man's head by Robert Gordy, an early work by Ida Kohlmeyer, and a landscape painting by Elemore Morgan, Jr. It's clear that Jim has a sense of whimsy and a love for color. A kinetic sculpture by Lin Emery and a small Hunt Slonem bunny sit near a sofa, and there's even a little beaded purse by Ashley Longshore perched among the pillows. Across the hall, adramatic triptych by Deborah Kass of Barbra Streisand dressed as Yentl commands attention. This painting ignites so much conversation about the intersection of culture and celebrity, strong women and gender, and just plain old fun chat about all things "Babs". What I love to do when I am at Jim's is to sit on one sofa as I gaze around the spaces before moving to another to do just the same from a different point of view.
Bently continues the holiday décor and flourishes throughout the house with glittery stars, gold foliage, and lighted trees popping up here and there. In the rear of the home, there are two dens that look out to a nice sized outdoor space that sees its share of at-home entertaining. One room is covered with a celebratory grid of colorful paintings that Jim bought over 30 years ago and is decorated with bowls and sconces by sculptor Mitchell Gaudet. Another holds a second Christmas tree and an art piece titled Jackie O, by filmmaker John Waters, that sparks lots of interesting discourse while we're on the subject of strong women.
The outdoor patio and courtyard, bursting with energetic pops of bright green, is about as happy and cheerful as it gets. Filled with comfortable seating, indoor and outdoor rugs, and lots of fun lighting, it's definitely the place to be at the cocktail hour. And the whimsical, fantastical birds Jim has tucked outside? Well, he found those on the back of a truck while driving to Baton Rouge and has collected them ever since. Jim is a true believer in buying the art that speaks to you. "Buy what you love that you can afford and all the rest works out," is his warm advice when asked how he goes about choosing art. "My process is that if I see something that draws me in, I come home, have a glass of wine and sleep on it. When I get up, I make my decision." I love that advice, because it feels so inclusive and encouraging. With this philosophy squarely in place, Jim has been a longtime and significant benefactor of KIDsmART and YAYA, two of our city's most important arts education organizations for children. He cares deeply for the New Orleans arts scene — the artists, the gallerists, the museums, and even the young students with budding talent.
The through line with the collection is that all works are by local and Southern artists or acquired from local galleries, with most purchased at the Arthur Roger Gallery. That commitment to art in New Orleans has been immeasurable. On my last visit, I asked Jim what his favorite piece of art or artist was, thinking that was an impossible question or one that he would need to mull over. But no...his answer was quick and definitive. "The very first piece of art that I purchased was by Ida Kohlmeyer. We bonded and developed a deep friendship over the years. So, yes, Ida Kohlmeyer. She was an outstanding artist and an even more outstanding person."
This article appeared in the December 2020 Issue of Adore Magazine.