Art Market

In an open letter, 120 artists, curators, and dealers blasted a California art foundation’s decision to sell most of its collection.

Christy Kuesel
Aug 21, 2019 5:16PM, via ARTnews

Front gate of the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art. Photo by Colson Griffith Photography.

More than 120 artists, dealers, and curators are publicly rebuking the Rene and Veronica di Rosa Foundation’s decision to sell off a large portion of its collection. The foundation, created by former Napa Valley winemaker Rene di Rosa in 2000, announced its new strategy to cease collecting works to display at the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art last month. According to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle, the foundation will retain between 200 and 400 works as a “legacy collection,” while selling off the rest of its 1,600-work collection to fund the institution’s endowment and allow the center to focus on commissioning and supporting working artists.

Over half of the signatories of the letter calling for the foundation to stop deaccessioning its holdings are artists or representatives of the estates of artists with works in the di Rosa Foundation’s collection, among them Lynn Hershman Leeson, Richard Misrach, Ron Nagle, and Peter Saul.

The letter calls on the foundation to find an “alternative institution to house, preserve, and appropriately utilize this unique collection.” The di Rosa Foundation 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,” according to the letter (published in full by ARTnews), and was founded on relationships Rene and Veronica di Rosa cultivated with artists and curators in the Bay Area. Rene di Rosa died in 2010, and the center has not acquired new works since then.

According to Artforum, museum director Robert Sain said last month:

We will continue to collaborate with the artists of the region and present their work, and we look forward to continuing to serve the broadest community possible through thoughtful exhibitions and inclusive education programs that engage people from all walks of life in ideas that matter.

But for the artists, dealers, and curators who signed the letter, failing to find an alternate location for the deaccessioned works “would lead to an irretrievable loss to the international art community.”

Christy Kuesel