The di Rosa Collection Center for Contemporary Art in Napa, California, has come under fire for its plans to deaccession the bulk of its 1,600-work collection of postwar art from northern California to fund an endowment. The center says it can’t otherwise afford to maintain the collection or program exhibitions.
Yesterday, 125 art world professionals, including Peter Saul, Mark di Suvero, Deborah Butterfield, and some 60 other artists who have work owned by the di Rosa, signed an open letter calling on the center to find another home for the collection to keep it together in its entirety, rather than see it scattered to the winds.
“It is the only collection in the world dedicated exclusively to the history of post-World War II art in Northern California in all its diversity of media, gender, race, and philosophy,” reads the letter, which was first published by ARTnews. Instead of deaccessioning this trove, it should seek “an alternative institution to house, preserve, and appropriately utilize this unique collection. Failing to do so would lead to an irretrievable loss to the international art community.”
The late husband-and-wife collectors Rene di Rosa, a winemaker, and Veronica di Rosa, an artist, founded the Rene and Veronica di Rosa Foundation in 1983. Rene sold 249 acres of his vineyard three years later and dedicated the remaining 217 acres for an art park. They formally established the di Rosa Preserve, the foundation’s nonprofit arm, in 2000. (It was renamed the di Rosa Collection Art Center in 2017.) The institution has not collected any new work since Rene’s death, nine years ago.
The center’s board announced its decision to gradually sell the collection to fund the endowment in July in a statement that described a “plan toward [a] sustainable future.” The center would reduce its holdings to just several hundred works that represent the di Rosas’ collecting vision.
Robert Sain, executive director of the center, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the di Rosa’s $3 million annual budget is not enough to cover maintenance costs for the collection while also presenting contemporary art exhibitions and educational programming for 13,000 annual visitors.
Among the artists represented in the collection are William T. Wiley, Mildred Howard, Robert Arneson, Joan Brown, Enrique Chagoya, Jay DeFeo, David Ireland, Eleanor Coppola, David Best, and Viola Frey, who is the subject of one of the center’s 2019 shows, “Viola Frey: Center Stage,” on view through December 29. Exhibitions of work by Jean Conner and Deborah Remington are planned for 2020.
Read the full letter below.
August 20th, 2019
To whom it may concern,
We the undersigned wish to express our opposition to the dismantling and commercial sale of the di Rosa Collection.
Amassed over an extended and historically important period of Bay Area art making (1960-2010), it is a significant achievement in and of itself, providing a rare opportunity to understand the dynamics and history of the emergence of Bay Area art as an internationally significant phenomenon. It is the only collection in the world dedicated exclusively to the history of post-World War II art in Northern California in all its diversity of media, gender, race, and philosophy. It is a collection that has served and should continue to serve generations of artists, scholars and curators.
The collection was borne from the relationships Rene and Veronica di Rosa had with the artists and curators of the Bay Area. The collection benefitted from those relationships in the form of gifts of work or substantially discounted purchases made with all participants in agreement that the acquisitions were to be part of a museum collection, meaning that they would be properly stored, conserved, made available for viewing, loans, and exhibition. Rene di Rosa wanted the collection preserved as a whole above all other institutional concerns.
We respectfully ask the director and the board to acknowledge and honor these unique circumstances by identifying an alternative institution to house, preserve, and appropriately utilize this unique collection. Failing to do so would lead to an irretrievable loss to the international art community.
(Signatures as of noon, August 20th, 2019)
George Adams / George Adams Gallery
Emily Davis Adams
Kirk Arneson / Robert Arneson Archive
Estate of Robert Arneson* / Sandra Shannonhouse
Artists Legacy Foundation / Gary Knecht Treasurer
Luis Cruz Azaceta*
Estate of Wallace Berman* / Tosh Berman
Dona Kopol Bonick*
Rena Bransten / Rena Bransten Gallery
Trish Bransten / Rena Bransten Gallery
Ruth Braunstein Trust / Marna Braunstein Clark
Estate of Joan Brown*/ Michael Hebel and Noel Neri
John E. Buck*
Catharine Clark / Catharine Clark Gallery
Ryan Conder / South Willard
Leah Levy, The Jay DeFeo* Foundation
Mark di Suvero*
Adrienne Fish / 871 Fine Arts
Greg Flood / Brian Gross Fine Art
Ed Gilbert / Anglim Gilbert Gallery
Brian Gross / Brian Gross Fine Art
Jacob Stewart Halevy
Nancy Hoffman / Nancy Hoffman Gallery
Todd Hosfelt / Hosfelt Gallery
Lynn Hershman Leeson*
Richard McLean* Estate / Caitlin McLean Silver
Gerard O’Brien / The Landing
Sam Parker / Parker Gallery
Mel Ramos* Estate / Rochelle Leinenger
Mary Leonard Robinson
Nancy Toomey / Nancy Toomey Fine Art
Shannon Trimble / Anglim Gilbert Gallery
William T. Wiley*
Mary Hull Webster*
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