SFMOMA Just Got a Game-Changing Bequest of 350 Contemporary Artworks From the Late Collectors Norah and Norman Stone

The late couple also left the museum $10 million in unrestricted funds.

Norah and Norman Stone in 2016. Photo: Drew Altizer Photography. Courtesy of SFMOMA.

The late Bay Area collectors and philanthropists Norah and Norman Stone have left the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) a donation of 350-some contemporary artworks and a $10 million bequest, the institution announced this week.

Among the works headed to the museum are pieces by Diane Arbus, Francis Picabia, Andy Warhol, and Carrie Mae Weems. The financial gift, which comes with no restrictions, will be used by the museum to form the basis of the Norah and Norman Stone Fund for Exhibitions of Contemporary Art to be put toward future SFMOMA shows. 

In a statement, SFMOMA director Neal Benezra called the donation a “breathtaking and exemplary gift.”

“Longtime friends and trustees, the Stones’ generosity will sustain SFMOMA’s commitment to contemporary art, both in our collection displays and our special exhibitions,” he said. “Their legacy of generosity is matched only by their marvelous personal style, passion for life, and all that is new in contemporary art. We are profoundly grateful to them.”

Jeff Koons, <i>Large Vase of Flowers</i> (1991). © Jeff Koons. Photo: Katherine Du Tiel. Courtesy of SFMOMA.

Jeff Koons, Large Vase of Flowers (1991). © Jeff Koons. Photo: Katherine Du Tiel. Courtesy of SFMOMA.

Known for their colorful personalities, the Stones began collecting art in the 1980s, forging a close relationship with former SFMOMA curator John Caldwell.

By the end of the decade, they honed a keen interest in some of the most important young artists of the era, eventually adding works by people like Matthew Barney, Robert Gober, and Mike Kelley to their holdings.

Norman, a psychologist, joined the SFMOMA board in 1991. Norah, a lawyer, joined him in 2009, even working as a volunteer docent at times.

The couple maintained homes in San Francisco and Napa Valley, scattering roughly 1,000 artworks across the two properties. The latter house boasted 17 acres of land punctuated by large-scale sculptures by Cady Noland and James Turrell, among others, as well as a 5,750-square-foot “art cave” for exhibitions and a yearly party.

Norah Stone died in 2019; Norman died last year. 

Francis Picabia, <i>Untitled (Portrait de femme)</i> (circa 1942). © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris. Photo: Katherine Du Tiel. Courtesy of SFMOMA.

Francis Picabia, Untitled (Portrait de femme) (circa 1942). © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris. Photo: Katherine Du Tiel. Courtesy of SFMOMA.

Highlights from the group of artworks headed to SFMOMA include a 1991 Jeff Koons’s sculpture, Large Vase of Flowers; Marcel Duchamp’s 1940 painting of a mustachioed Mona Lisa, L.H.O.O.Q.; and Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Still #27 from 1980.

SFMOMA will draw on the exhibitions fund for two shows this spring: “Shifting the Silence,” a presentation of works by 32 women abstractionists, and “Speculative Portraits,” featuring works by portraitists inspired by science and technology. Both shows are set to open April 9.

The gift “is a true expression of their love for and dedication to the museum and the city of San Francisco,” the couple’s daughter, Amy Stone, said. “They deeply valued how art can inspire, move, and connect people. We hope their gift will help keep their love of contemporary art alive for years to come.”

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