Late in his long and colorful career as a baseball player and manager, the always quotable Casey Stengel noted that "most of the people my age are dead."
It's a sentiment with which Jacksonville art collector and real estate developer Ira Koger, 87, can identify. "The trouble with me is I go to funerals once a week," Koger quipped during a recent interview.
The irony is that Koger, having reached an age when most of his contemporaries aren't around anymore, is deep into an ambitious new project.
Opening to the public today, The Koger Gallery & Gardens, located in the building originally built for the Jacksonville Art Museum (later the Jacksonville Museum of Contemporary Art), will house a collection of Asian art, mostly porcelain, that Koger has spent half of a century accumulating.
It began, Koger noted, "with a little sepia dish" his wife Nancy bought in Atlanta in the late 1940s. Koger, who paid several thousand dollars for the dish, was intrigued by the question "why so much money for that little cracked dish?"
A lifetime of study and acquisition later, he has assembled what guest curator John Ayers has called perhaps the finest collection of blanc de chine (white porcelain) in the United States. "It's an astonishingly rich collection," Ayers, one of the world's foremost authorities on Asian art, said during an interview last fall.