SAN FRANCISCO – It’s been a banner time for top college and university museums of late. Leon Black popped for the new Black Family Visual Arts Center at Dartmouth, the historic and terrific Yale University Art Gallery was wholly revamped and expanded, and the list goes on.
Now Stanford is getting in on the act. As part of the creation of a whole arts village right in the middle of its historic campus, the university is debuting the Anderson Collection at Stanford University in September. It’s comprised of 121 artworks in a stand-alone building designed by Richard Olcott and Ennead Architects.
Mary Patricia “Putter” Anderson Pence, Harry “Hunk” Anderson and Mary Margaret “Moo” Anderson at their home in front of works by Donald Sultan and Terry Winters (2013). Photo by Linda Cicero.
The line-up is eye-popping: Willem De Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Ellsworth Kelly, Richard Diebenkorn, Frank Stella and Philip Guston are among those represented in the collection, and it’s not a bunch of also-ran pieces by big names. Many are major masterpieces.
Philip Guston’s The Coat II, 1977.
I went to a press event for this new museum, and was wholly charmed by the Anderson family, the donors of the works. The couple goes by Hunk and Moo (given names: Harry and Mary Margaret), and they had me at those nicknames. Their daughter Putter was also on hand (Mary Patricia Anderson Pence).
While making a fortune in the food service business, the Atherton-based family’s real passion was for buying pictures, something that started in the mid-1960s and ballooned as of the 1970s. Putter grew up not with a poster of David Cassidy on her bedroom wall, but a Pollock drip, an Albers square and a moody Rothko. Now that’s a teenage dream.
Wayne Thiebaud, Candy Counter, 1962, oil on canvas. Art. © Wayne Thiebaud/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.
The Andersons have been unfailingly generous and gracious, and they are also a lot of fun. You can tell that collecting is their main project in life, one that continues to this day. They’ve donated a lot of art to SFMOMA too, but despite all these gifts, they still have more than 500 pieces in their collection. Moo candidly told me that no, the remaining artworks are not promised elsewhere at present, and yes, requests for the trove to be donated are a frequent affair from institutions far and wide.
Exterior view from Cantor at Stanford University. © Ennead Architects.
More on the Anderson Collection later this year as it nears completion, but it’s clear that this is going to be a major stop for Bay Area art lovers. And there’s going to be more and more pressure on other universities to keep pace with Stanford in terms of major art donations.