Over the past two decades, Norman and Norah Stone have formed an art collection that speaks to their individual sensibility and is internationally admired for its excellence and unique perspective. Initially, it was John Caldwell, the first curator of painting and sculpture at SFMoMA, who inspired the Stones to build their collection. As well, Caldwell was instrumental in introducing the Stones to Thea Westreich, with whom they have worked in close collaboration since 1990. During this time, the Stones have focused their collecting on artists who transcend cultural boundaries, undermine conventional notions of purity in painting and sculpture, and strike a balance between conceptual and perceptual qualities.
Given their unique vision and unabashed daring, it is not surprising that the Stones would create a new type of exhibition space to show their art. They have taken the age-old, commonly used modality of carving out an underground area for the storage of wine and transformed it into a refined space for the exhibition of art.
The 5,750-square-foot Art Cave, designed by Bade Stageberg Cox, is situated inside a mountain on the Stones’ Napa Valley property. It is seamlessly integrated as part of the now completed “Stonescape,” which also features a newly designed pool and pavilion by James Turrell; a 1990 outdoor sculpture by Cady Noland; a farmhouse, built in 1887, that is installed with exceptional works of contemporary art and outstanding examples of mid-century Scandinavian design (all from the Stones’ collection); a vineyard; and a majestic stand of redwood trees.
The Stones began to seriously collect in the mid-1980s and with notable prescience assembled some of the best works by artists who emerged in that decade, including Robert Gober, Mike Kelley, Martin Kippenberger, Jeff Koons, Cady Noland, Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman and Christopher Wool.
Over their collecting history, they’ve also acquired the works of several postwar masters, such as Joseph Beuys, Marcel Duchamp, Sigmar Polke, Dieter Roth and Andy Warhol—all seminal artists whose influence is manifest throughout the collection.
From the rich vein of Minimal and Conceptual art-making practice, they have collected important works by Vito Acconci, John Baldessari, Dan Flavin, Gilbert & George, Donald Judd, Bruce Nauman, Richard Serra and Robert Smithson.
In the 1990s, the Stones continued to engage with new and innovative expressions, adding to their collection works by Doug Aitken, Matthew Barney, Larry Clark, Jack Pierson and Jason Rhoades. They have also added early and important works by younger artists, such as Mark Alexander, Robert Beck, Monica Bonvicini, Ann Collier, Jan De Cock, Jamie Isenstein, Scott Lyall, Robert Melee, Sean Paul, Eileen Quinlan, Simon Starling, Cheyney Thompson and Keith Tyson.
Ever individual in their interests and selections, the Stones always keep their eyes open to artists of earlier times who connect to their interests and to the artists they have collected, such as Martin Barré, Hans Bellmer, Bruce Conner and Tony Conrad.