More than 120 artists, dealers, and curators have signed an open letter protesting the Rene and Veronica di Rosa Foundation’s decision to deaccession the majority of the works in its 1,600-work collection in order to boost its endowment. The signees are urging the foundation to find an alternative institution that will house and maintain the collection as a whole. “Failing to do so,” they claim, will be an “irretrievable loss to the international art community.”
The letter, which was first published by Artnews, calls the collection a “significant achievement in and of itself,” which provides a “rare opportunity to understand the dynamics and history of the emergence of Bay Area art as an internationally significant phenomenon.” It continues: “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.”
Based in Napa, California, the foundation runs the Di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art and maintains the collection of Napa vintner Rene di Rosa, who began to amass works by emerging Bay Area artists in the 1960s, and his wife, the artist Veronica di Rosa. The organization announced last month that it is “adopting changes toward a sustainable future,” which include becoming a non-collecting institution and shifting its programming to focus more on commissioning and supporting local working artists.
The foundation also revealed that it will work with Graham W. J. Beal, the former director, president, and CEO of the Detroit Institute of Arts and a friend of Rene di Rosa, to select the several hundred artworks that will make up its legacy collection, which will continue to be available for exhibitions and other programming on the grounds of the center, which is located on 217 acres and boasts two galleries and a sculpture meadow.
Among those who signed the letter are sixty artists whose works are represented in the collection, including Terry Allen, James Barsness, Eleanor Coppola, Mark di Suvero, Mildred Howard, Ron Nagle, Mungo Thomson, and William T. Wiley.
The open letter is published in full 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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