Contemporary Art

“I like to find stuff that’s a kick in the teeth,” says Jeff Dauber of his avant-garde and contemporary art collection. He hits that mark with challenging and confrontational pieces like Walter Robinson’s pink Mickey Mouse Pieta and Al Farrow’s artillery-walled Synagogue. Dominated by large-scale works, Dauber’s collection includes sculpture, drawings, paintings, photographs and new media. In his largely representative and figurative collection are pieces by Travis Somerville, Hank Willis Thomas, Hung Liu, John Bankston, Enrique Chagoya, Lincoln Schatz and many others. Dauber’s “Deform” house, on which he collaborated with experimental architect Thom Faulders, features a private gallery dedicated to his rapidly growing collection.

Old Master to 20th Century

This exquisite, museum-quality collection includes Old Master works, 19th- and 20th- century paintings and drawings, English furniture, 18th- and 19th-century Japanese scrolls, Pre-Columbian art, Central Asian textiles and rare books. Among the artists represented in the collection are Rembrandt, Guercino, Tiepolo, Fragonard, Turner, Redon, Picasso and Hockney. The collection is housed in an 11,000-square-foot home built in 1922 by Lewis Hobart, the architect of Grace Cathedral. 

Contemporary Art & Mid-Century Furniture

Graphic designer and artist Robert Stone’s collection showcases modern and contemporary works. Primarily abstract and non-representational, the striking collection is also predominantly black and white. “I’m usually influenced more by form, composition, texture and material than I am by color,” says Stone. Featuring works in many mediums, the collection includes paintings and drawings by Sol LeWitt, Robert Kelly and Charles Howard, prints by Kiki Smith and Louis Marcoussis, sculpture by Louise Nevelson and Ruth Asawa, photography by Mike and Doug Starn and Edward Burtynsky and mixed media works by Deborah Butterfield and Robert Yoder. Stone’s mid-century modern home was built in 1952 by San Francisco mayor Elmer Robinson, and is a perfect setting for Stone’s collection of furniture by leading 20th-century designers Gio Ponti, Jean Prouvé, Gerard Reitveld and many others. 

Contemporary Bay Area & American Modernist

Founder of San Francisco’s Art Exchange Gallery, Claire Carlevaro has truly made an art of life: art can be found on the walls, in the garden, in the closets and even on the ceiling of her Russian Hill home. “My passion is to demystify art and art buying,” says Carlevaro. The focus of her collection is on work by contemporary Bay Area artists including Deborah Oropallo, Jay DeFeo, Nathan Oliveira and Raymond Saunders. Claire and her husband Dan have recently expanded their collection to include works by American Abstract Artists, which are characterized by form and color. While this group was organized in New York, an exhibition of their work was presented at the de Young Museum in 1939 and several Bay Area artists joined the movement. The Carlevaro’s collection features primarily artists working between 1937-1947 and includes Balcomb Greene, Albert Gallatin, Charles Green Shaw, Alexander Corazzo and many others.

Contemporary & Minimalist

The collection of Alexandra Bowes and Stephen Williamson focuses on contemporary and minimalist work dating from the 1970s to the present. Artists in the collection include Myron Stout, Sol LeWitt, Yayoi Kusama, Carl André, David Smith and many others. Their home was built in 1958 by the firm of Homsey Emrich Dodge & Davis and, when the couple renovated the property in 2004, they had the opportunity to work with firm principal George Homsey, who came out of retirement for the project. “When we bought the home, we began collecting more minimal work to reflect the architecture,” says Bowes. “After the renovation, the abundance of natural light helped created a wonderful setting for displaying the work.” 

International Contemporary Art

“Ultimately the real joy of collecting is sharing your passion,” says Michael Hackett, co-founder and director of San Francisco’s acclaimed Hackett-Freedman Gallery. “You really see collectors become animated when they discuss things that move them.” For Hackett, that means contemporary work of international scope. His personal collection focuses on art from the 1950s to the present and includes sculpture by Katsura Funakoshi and Deborah Butterfield, paintings by Luis Feito, Manolo Millares, Euan Uglow, David Park and Nathan Oliveira. Hackett’s home, built in 1936, was renovated to feature clean-lined spaces that are, as he describes, “sympathetic to art.”

Contemporary Russian Art

Claude and Nina Gruen were able to design the interior walls of their SoMa penthouse to showcase approximately ninety works. The Gruens’ collection of contemporary Russian art focuses on work from the 1950s onward, and features important artists Ilya Kabakov, Eric Bulatov, Vitaly Komar & Alexander Melamid, Oleg Vassiliev and many others. The Gruen collection has been gifted to the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University, where fifty pieces are currently on exhibit. A comprehensive catalogue of the Gruen collection has also been published by the museum. “It is hard to pinpoint the date when our array of artifacts became a ‘collection,’” says Mrs. Gruen. “Collecting, for us, was never a means of investment… but rather a way of pursuing a passionate interest.” From both an artistic and historic perspective, it’s a must-see.

Contemporary Women Artists

Lenore Pereira and Richard Niles collect contemporary works by women artists. “This practice reflects a strong feminist culture in our family, although the collection isn’t all political art,” say Niles and Pereira. “Rather we have collected art that reflects the broad practice among artists who happen to be female.” Their collection includes work by Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith, Sue Williams, Roni Horn, Tracy Emin and Jenny Holzer as well as local and emerging artists. The collectors recently completed a new home, designed by Ogrydziak/Prillinger Architects, to house their collection. A three-story building of steel, glass, and concrete with exposed structural elements, it features wonderful views of the city and is the perfect environment for the display of their artwork.

Tribal & Contemporary African Art

Tribal and contemporary African art is at the heart of Diane and Charles Frankel’s extraordinary collection. Their contemporary three-story home, built in 1959, showcases spectacular masks and tribal objects from Mali, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire and other west African countries. “Originally it was the beauty of the masks that attracted us,” says Charles Frankel. “As we spent more time in Africa, we communicated more with the spirit of the continent and came to know not just the masks, but the music and dance and people, the context of the masks. In many ways, the masks portray the faces of the different tribes that created them.” Several years ago the Frankels also began collecting contemporary African works, including drawings, oil paintings and sculpture by such artists as William Kentridge, Julie Mehretu, David Goldblatt and Robin Rhode. Contemporary photography by international artists including Olafur Eliasson, Uta Barth, Edward Burtynsky and Sabine Hornig is also showcased.

Photography, Works on Paper and Sculpture

“My passion for art started at an early age and I bought my first piece, a photograph by Michael Kenna, when I was 15 years old,” says collector Sabrina Buell. Buell’s collection began with an emphasis on photography including works by Berenice Abbott, Robert Adams, Noboyoshi Araki, Nan Goldin, Todd Hido, Roni Horn, Tina Modotti and Weegee.  It has since evolved to include works on paper by artists such as Ernesto Caivano, R. Crumb, Gary Hume, Ellsworth Kelly and Wade Guyton, as well as sculpture by Katharina Fritsch, Barry McGee, Mitzi Pederson and Ken Price. Buell’s live/work loft was originally a warehouse space, and the old timber ceilings and beautiful brick arches from the original architecture have been maintained.