Following last month’s news that the Rene and Veronica di Rosa Foundation in Napa, California, would begin selling off pieces from its 1,600-work collection, a group of artists, curators, and dealers have gone public with their opposition to the center’s strategy, which it has said will allow it to become a financially stable non-collecting institution.
In an open letter shared with ARTnews on Tuesday, more than 120 individuals said that they opposed the foundation’s decision to start deaccessioning its holdings. They call on the center, whose collection is rich in work by artists hailing from Northern California, to name an alternative institution that would safeguard the collection. “Failing to do so,” the signees contend, “would lead to an irretrievable loss to the international art community.”
Among the signees are artists Luis Cruz Azaceta, Kathy Butterly, Mark di Suvero, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Judith Linhares, Barry McGee, Ruby Neri, Peter Saul, Sally Saul, Wayne Thiebaud, and Mungo Thomson; curators Dan Nadel, Jenelle Porter, and Ingrid Schaffner; and dealers George Adams, Rena Bransten, and Nancy Hoffman. More than 60 signatories are artists or representatives for estates with works in the di Rosa Foundation’s collection.
A representative for the foundation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The di Rosa Foundation announced its move to become a non-collecting entity in July. Brenda Mixson, the president of the foundation’s board of directors, previously said in a statement that selling a large portion of the collection would allow the institution to work on “commissioning and supporting working artists and expanding the artistic experiences available for visitors.” Robert Sain, the foundation’s executive director, previously told ARTnews, “We’ve got a great program to deliver to the community, but in order to keep doing it, the board has made these important decisions.”
According to the plan laid out in July, the institution will continue to hold several hundred works. One of its founders, Rene di Rosa, died in 2010, and the institution has not acquired any works since then.
The open letter follows 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*