The Art Collector

Lawrence Ashe has an eye for the whimsical

Published in 2007 Georgia Super Lawyers — March 2007

Lawrence Ashe began collecting art when he was in the U.S. Navy in the 1960s, and his hobby is given full rein at Ashe, Rafuse & Hill in Midtown Atlanta.

Step off the elevator and the first thing you see is artist Corey Barksdale’s painted yellow fiberglass cow, an artifact of the city’s 2003 Cow Parade. Accenting the reception area are large, vibrantly colored Steve Penley paintings of Abraham Lincoln and Hank Aaron.

“Both have symbolic importance for Atlanta that our firm likes recognizing,” says Ashe, a specialist in employment, civil rights law and litigation, whose typical clients are Fortune 500 companies.

No telling what you’ll spot—from paintings of Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin to black-and-white street scenes by photographer Sheila Pree Bright. Two words, he says, describe his collection: eclectic and whimsical.

Art is everywhere. One conference room is dominated by a Penley portrait of Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin at Tehran, another room by a Bill Gambini painting of Laurel and Hardy, with Hardy striking a Napoleonic pose and Laurel gazing on in deadpan wonder.

Ashe’s office is chockablock with stuff, with a strong porcine motif in play. There’s a sculpture of a pig putting a golf ball and an André Harvey sculpture of three pigs wallowing in the mire. “Some have suggested that’s a metaphor for the way I keep my office,” Ashe says.

His collection is actually a joint collection. He and his wife, Kathy, a state legislator (D-56th House District), combined their respective art collections years ago, and they’ve been adding to it ever since. Their Ansley Park residence, only a few blocks away, is a treasure-trove of paintings, sculptures and knickknacks. Ashe is especially fond of a chess set upstairs. The pawns on one side depict the criminal prosecution side of the law, the other the defense.

Another favorite work is a mostly wooden sculpture of a girl in a polka-dot dress jumping rope while standing on one leg. “She represents a free, liberated and happy spirit, which we like,” he says.

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