Geneva Anderson digs into art

“Napa Valley Collects”— the Napa Valley Museum offers a rare peek at art from Napa Valley’s exclusive collectors

Jan Shrem of Clos Pegase Winery with painting "Pegasus" by Odilon Redon.  Photo: courtesy Napa Valley Museum

Jan Shrem of Clos Pegase Winery with painting “Pegasus” by Odilon Redon. Photo: courtesy Napa Valley Museum

In addition to its treasured vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, Napa Valley is also home to some exclusive private art collections.   Exquisite artworks that have been quietly hanging in Napa County homes for years, including pieces from Marc Chagall, Alexander Rodchenko, Helen Frankenthaler, Wayne Thiebaud, and Joan Brown, will be the focus of “Napa Valley Collects,” at the Napa Valley Museum in Yountville, from April 4th through May 26th 2013.

The exhibition features 65 artworks from 30 Napa Valley collectors and represents 53 artists.  Fifty-six of these artworks are installed in private homes, so this is the public’s only chance to view them.  Many of the donors are celebrated  patrons of the arts in general—Margrit Mondavi, Jan Shrem, Francis and Eleanor Coppola, Norman and Norah Stone, Ronald and Anita Wornick, Peter and Kirsten Bedford, and more.  Some are lesser-known, like photographer Jana Waldinger, who has an important trove of Rodchenko estate prints.  Several years in gestation, the exhibition is guest curated by Ann Trinca, of Napa, and is presented in partnership with Arts Council Napa Valley and Visit Napa Valley.  A special preview party, with many of the collectors in attendance, will kick off Napa Valley Collects this Thursday, April 4, from 6-8 p.m., and will feature select Napa Valley wines, live music from the Johnny Smith Group, and culinary treats from Rutherford’s celebrated Auberge du Soleil.

I had the pleasure of meeting curator Ann Trinca, while researching a magazine article on Napa Valley collectors and can attest to the difficulty and delicacy of forging fruitful relations with these high profile residents who are very busy and protective of their privacy. Having built or inherited empires earlier in their lives, their concerns are now turned towards legacy and many of them want to be taken seriously as collectors and benefactors who are building a cultural foundation for future generations.  Trinca was allowed into some of the most exquisite homes in the Napa Valley, which she described as a “delirious thrill,” and was largely given free rein to choose artworks from the lenders’ outstanding collections.  She chose pieces that were “reflective of their taste and collecting journey.”

Enrique Chagoya, "What Appropriation Has Given Me (Fritas yDieguitos)" Collection of Austin and Sara Hills

Enrique Chagoya, “What Appropriation Has Given Me (Fritas y
Dieguitos)” Collection of Austin and Sara Hills

Mondavi, Shrem, and Coppola are household names in the Wine Country–you may have visited their wineries and seen portions of their collections but their private collecting habits have not been fully explored.  The exhibition will share some “love at first sight” stories about these lenders and their artworks and the special relationships that they formed with the artists in their collections.  It will also introduce some less visible but important collectors to the public such as Ron and Anita Wonick, of St. Helena and San Francisco and Peter and Kirsten Bedford.

The Wornicks are not household names but, over the past 30 years, they have amassed one of the most important conceptual craft collections in the country, earning the respect of prominent museums worldwide for their efforts to elevate these finely executed works to the level of fine art.  For Napa Valley Collects, the couple lent two works by Northern Irish glass artist Clifford Rainey.

The Wornicks have a longstanding appreciation for Rainey’s work.  His “Shy Boy” (2005) was one of 250 artworks from their conceptual craft collection— wood, ceramics, glass, fiber, and metal artworks—that they bequeathed to the Boston Fine Arts Museum.    Ron Wornick, who founded the The Wornick Company, amassed part of his fortune through creating and mass-producing MREs (Meals, Ready to Eat) a next-generation of individual combat meals or C-rations for soldiers which revolutionized the way soldiers ate in the field.  The rest came when he sold his company.  Wornick, a woodworker himself, has a special passion for wood.  He and his wife are enthusiastically nurturing and supporting wood artists through purchases, endowments, and fellowships and pushing to get wood its long due recognition in the country’s leading museums.   The Wornicks own Seven Stones winery in St. Helena, named after Richard Deutch’s mammoth sculpture, “Seven Stones”  which marks the entrance to the property.

Robert Arneson, "Six Beers," 1991, glazed ceramic, 16 x 11 x 7 inches, loaned from a private collection.  Arneson was born in Benecia, CA, in 1930 and is responsible for transforming ceramics into a recognized medium of contemporary art and for creating highly confrontational artworks.  Starting in the 1960’s, he was a pivotal in the Funk Art movement and was dubbed the father of the ceramic funk movement. Photo: courtesy Napa Valley Museum

Robert Arneson, “Six Beers,” 1991, glazed ceramic, 16 x 11 x 7 inches, loaned from a private collection. Arneson was born in Benecia, CA, in 1930 and is responsible for transforming ceramics into a recognized medium of contemporary art and for creating highly confrontational artworks. Starting in the 1960’s, he was a pivotal in the Funk Art movement and was dubbed the father of the ceramic funk movement. Photo: courtesy Napa Valley Museum

Peter and Kirsten Bedford, of Walnut Creek and Napa Valley,  have lent three works by Roy DeForest.   The Bedfords both have business backgrounds.  He was a leading property developer in California and spread out to cable television, radio and restaurants and she was the publisher of Bedford Arts from 1986 to 1991 and is very active on museum boards. They both attended Stanford and supported its Cantor Arts Center with the “Bedford Sentinels,” a trio of bronze works by artist Beverly Pepper situated at the corner of Serra and Galvev Streets on campus.  The Bedfords also endowed Walnut Creek’s Bedford Gallery, the largest community-based visual arts facility between the Bay Area and Sacramento.  This contemporary art space is housed in the City of Walnut Creek’s Lesher Center for the Arts.

In the contemporary art world, collectors and philanthropists Norman and Norah Stone, of San Francisco and Napa Valley, are fabled for Stonescape, their fabulously engineered art cave nestled near Calistoga, where they host art happenings for a select and highly international crowd.  Norman Stone is the son of Clement Stone, the billionaire insurance magnate and self-help author.  The Stones are Trustees of SFMOMA and collaborate with New York art advisor and collector Thea Westreich.  They have lent an early Matthew Barney piece to the exhibition, piece they purchased well before Barney captured he attention of the art world.

Their last happening “Politics is Personal,” in 2012, addressed the notion of political viewpoint.  Artworks by Joseph Beuys, Jeff Koons, Catherine Opie, Richard Prince, Taryn Simon, Piotr Uklanski, and others explored topics that are inherently political—gender, alienation, freedom of thought, war and violence.  “Our art addresses upsetting issues and I don’t feel good about them, but they exist and should not be shirked,” said Norman Stone (quote extracted from 3.2.2012 article  Politics is Personal by Thea Westreich Art Advisory Services.)  Rubbing elbows with the Stones is always delightful.

Several of the exhibition participants preferred to remain anonymous.  One of these generously lent two Picasso lithographs that will be prominently displayed.

“Exploring these amazing Napa Valley Collections, it was encouraging to learn that many patrons collect locally,” said Trinca.  “Out of the fifty-four artists included in the exhibition, forty of them are California artists.  As the self-proclaimed “artaholic” Rene di Rosa believed, the art of our region defines our local culture.  In part, this exhibition helps describe the Napa Valley through the passions of its residents.”

“We are thrilled to host an exhibition of this caliber,” said Kristie Sheppard, the museum’s executive director since 2011.  “We’ve pulled together something unique and substantial that will delight our patrons and visitors.”   Sheppard noted that 300 people had already purchased tickets to Thursday’s special opening party.

Collectors:  Thomas Bartlett, Kirsten & Peter Bedford, T. Beller, Joanne & Ronald Birtcher, Dale & Marla Bleecher, Lee & Moira Block, Stacey & Bob Bressler, Chandra Cerrito & Lewis de Soto, Liz Christensen & Richard Meese, Eleanor & Francis Ford Coppola, di Rosa, Hess Collection, Austin & Sarah Hills, Angela Hoxsey, Dick and Ann Grace, Margrit Mondavi, Val and Bob Montgomery, Louise Newquist, John Nyquist, Marden Plant, Michael Polenske, Felicia and Chuck Shinnamon, Norman and Norah Stone, Janna Waldinger and Anita & Ron Wornick

Artists Represented:  Robert Arneson, Thomas Bartlett, Peter Beard, Robert Bechtel,  Joan Brown, Squeak Carnwath, Marc Chagall, Enrique Chagoya, Jennifer Clark (Skonovd), Ronald Davis, Wiilard Dixon, Roy DeForest, Stephen DeStaebler, Veronica di Rosa, Helen Frankenthaler, Robilee Frederick, Susan Freedman, Viola Frey, Gade, David Gilhooly, Charles Ginnever, Ransome Holdridge, Tom Holland, David Ireland, William Keith, Alphonse-Maria Mucha, Arne Nyback, Nathan Oliveira, Deborah Oropallo, Pablo Picasso, Alexander Rodchenko, Lordy Rodriguez, Tsherin Sherpa, Dale Snyder, Wayne Thiebaud, Earl Thollander, Cy Twombly, Peter VandenBerge, Peter Voulkos, William T Wiley, Ken Jan Woo

Arts in April™:    Napa Valley Collects is a participant of Arts in April™, the valley’s third annual, month-long tasty blend of wine and local culture that offers winery art installations, pop-up exhibitions and tastings—sponsored by Arts Council Napa Valley and Visit Napa Valley.

Details: The preview party for Napa Valley Collects is April 4, from 6-8 p.m.  Tickets are $100 and are available online ( or by phone (707.944.0500).  In addition to the exhibition, public programming will include gallery tours (free with the price of museum admission), on April 20th and May 18th, as well as a screening of film Art of the Steal on April 25th at 7p.m. Reservations are required.

Situated mid-valley in the historic town of Yountville, between St. Helena and Napa, Napa Valley Museum is located at 55 Presidents Circle in Yountville next to the Napa Valley Performing Arts Center at Lincoln Theater and is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am-4pm. For more information visit

April 3, 2013 Posted by | Art | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment