A substantial number of the 1,600 pieces of art that the late Rene and Veronica di Rosa collected during their lifetimes will be going up for sale.
On Friday, the Rene and Veronica di Rosa Foundation has announced that it will begin a “phased process” to reduce the di Rosa collection to several hundred pieces “that represent the collecting vision of Rene and Veronica di Rosa.”
“It’s a good step, the right step that points us in the right direction,” said Robert Sain, executive director of di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art, and the di Rosa Foundation’s Collections Committee. “It means that we can continue to honor the legacy of the founder, which was to support artists.”
Art collectors and longtime champions of artists of Bay Area and Northern California artists, Rene (1919–2010) and Veronica (1934–1991) di Rosa established the Rene and Veronica di Rosa Foundation in 1983.
Their vast collection of ecclectic and often daring works were kept at their 217-acre Carneros property, which evolved into two galleries as well as meadows filled with sculptures.
In 2000, Rene di Rosa established a 501 ©(3) nonprofit entity, di Rosa Preserve, “with the intent to exhibit and promote works by artists of Northern California.”
The di Rosa Foundation served as the primary funder of the nonprofit, lending works from its collection for display and providing financial support for general operations.
Following Rene di Rosa’s death in 2010, the Preserve began evolving from a single collector’s private endeavor to an independent public-facing institution. In 2017, the Preserve adopted the new name to clarify its mission: di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art.
Much of the art collection was transferred into storage, an action that proved prescient when the 2017 wildfires came to the boundaries of the di Rosa property.
More than 13,000 visitors annually come to the center, which presents contemporary exhibitions by Bay Area-based artists with an array of educational programs.
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In a press release, the board of directors of the foundation said they are “adopting changes toward a sustainable future for both the foundation and the the nonprofit, di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art.”
The remaining “legacy collection” will continue to be available to di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art for exhibitions and display in public locations on the grounds of the center.
Sain is leading the initiative, in consultation with Graham W. J. Beal, former director, president and CEO of the Detroit Institute of Arts, who knew Rene di Rosa and the collection in his lifetime.
“If a decision can be beyond unanimous, it was,” said Sain of the board’s decision, which, he said came “after a prolonged and in-depth analysis of our own history and vision as well as the broader cultural landscape of Northern California.
“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.
“I am excited for our future,” Sain said.
The release noted that although the foundation ceased active collecting after Rene di Rosa’s death, “the foundation still incurs considerable costs to maintain the care of the collection assembled during di Rosa’s lifetime. These costs are not entirely aligned with the efforts to make contemporary art available to the community at large.
“The board of the foundation has now unanimously resolved that both nonprofit entities are non-collecting. The remaining works, not in the legacy collection, will eventually be made available for sale, and any proceeds will go toward financial stability for the Foundation, so it can continue to support its art center affiliate.”
Brenda Mixson, president of the Foundation’s board of directors, said, “The decision to reduce and focus the collection is necessary to keep di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art’s doors open and to allow both organizations to thrive and serve our community. As non-collecting entities, our emphasis will be on commissioning and supporting working artists and expanding the artistic experiences available for visitors.”
Currently on view at di Rosa is “Viola Frey: Center Stage,” a comprehensive retrospective of the artist, launching a trilogy of exhibitions of under-recognized women artists. Jean Conner and Deborah Remington exhibitions are slated for 2020 along with a new series of artists’ commissions.