Discover Chara Schreyer’s Remarkable Art Collection

Chara Schreyer, a dedicated student of art throughout her life, has left an indelible mark as one of the foremost collectors and patrons of post-war and contemporary art in the 21st century.

Her collection, marked by its fearless eclecticism and a refusal to conform to traditional categorization, boasts seminal works from the post-war era, spanning diverse art movements like Conceptualism and Minimalism.

Beyond her role as a celebrated collector, Schreyer has earned recognition as an unwavering supporter of leading museums and institutions in her home state of California.

Frank Stella’s Honduras Lottery Co.(Center), And Robert Gober’s Deep Basin Sink (Right), As Exhibited In Chara Schreyer’s Home In Marin, California.

After decades of dedicated and impassioned collecting, driven by her unwavering belief in the power to transmute and elevate life through art, Chara Schreyer’s esteemed collection is poised to grace the prestigious Sotheby’s auction stage.

The collection will make its debut this November in the Contemporary Evening Auction, a highlight of the renowned New York Sales, with additional sales scheduled to extend through 2024.

Early Life and Artistic Awakening

Born in post-World War II Germany to a family of Holocaust survivors, Schreyer was instilled with an appreciation for life’s fragility from a young age. Her family’s relocation to Los Angeles in the 1950s marked the beginning of her artistic journey. In the midst of the counterculture and student protest movements in San Francisco during her time at the University of California, Berkeley, Schreyer discovered her true passion – art.

It was during a visit to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to study Matisse’s “Femme au chapeau” in the mid-1960s that she described as the turning point in her understanding of art. This emotional connection with art became the foundation for her lifelong dedication to collecting.

Although Schreyer initiated her art collection with American Modernism in the 1970s, she sensed a profound transformation underway in the art world. The post-war era was witnessing the birth of Conceptualism and other groundbreaking artistic expressions that resonated deeply with her.

However, it wasn’t until the late 1990s that Schreyer immersed herself fully in this epochal shift in art, often referring to these works as “making strange.” Artists such as Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha, Robert Gober, Eva Hesse, Joseph Beuys, and female artists like Louise Bourgeois and Jacqueline Humphries, among others, formed the nucleus of her collection, demonstrating her lifelong commitment to supporting women in the arts.

Creating Unique Art Environments

Schreyer’s approach to collecting went beyond acquisition; she transformed her living spaces into bespoke galleries, carefully curating each residence to harmonize with the artworks. These adaptable, site-specific environments blurred the lines between art and living space, accommodating a diverse array of nontraditional art styles and materials, including neon, video art, large-scale sculptures, and process art.

Discover Chara Schreyer's Remarkable Art Collection
Mark Bradford’s A Thousand Daddies (Center) And Donald Judd’s Untitled (Right), As Exhibited At Chara Schreyer’s Los Angeles Home.

Schreyer’s commitment to integrating art into her life extended to sharing her passion with others. She hosted numerous private tours, inviting university student groups, cultural associations, and museum boards into her homes to share stories about the art and artists she held dear.

Believing in the power of art education to inspire, she considered it a collector’s responsibility to make their collections accessible.

Her dedication extended to her roles as a patron and trustee of major art institutions, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and the Hammer Museum.

Collection Highlights

“I am always on the hunt for art to speak to the architectural characteristics of my houses, and houses that speak to the art historical characteristics of the art.”
Chara Schreyer

Discover Chara Schreyer's Remarkable Art Collection
Andy Warhol, Rorschach, Estimate $3-4 million
  • Marcel Duchamp’s “La Boîte-en-Valise”
    Estimated at $1.8-2.5 million, this piece serves as the conceptual cornerstone of Schreyer’s collection. Duchamp’s “portable museum” contains miniature reproductions of his works, encapsulating his groundbreaking approach to art.
  • Frank Stella’s “Honduras Lottery Co.”
    Estimated at $10-15 million, this monumental work represents Stella’s Concentric Square series, a pivotal moment in his career. It stands as a rare example of this scale, with others in prestigious museum collections worldwide.
  • Eva Hesse’s “Top Spot”
    Estimated at $5-7 million, “Top Spot” reflects Hesse’s transition from two dimensions to three. Schreyer’s passion for innovative art is mirrored in this piece, which blurs the line between painting and sculpture.
  • Robert Gober’s “Deep Basin Sink”
    Estimated at $2-3 million, this sculpture exemplifies Gober’s ability to make the familiar strange. It holds symbolic significance, reflecting complex social and political issues, particularly related to the AIDS epidemic.
  • Donald Judd’s “Untitled”
    Estimated at $7-10 million, this large-scale Minimalist Stack sculpture played a pivotal role in Schreyer’s collection. It’s a testament to Judd’s significance in the Minimalist movement.
  • Andy Warhol’s “Rorschach”
    Estimated at $3-4 million, Warhol’s Rorschach series delves into self-reflection. Schreyer’s collection includes this monumental example from the series, underlining its importance in Warhol’s oeuvre.
  • Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Pelvis IV (Pelvis Front)”
    This piece holds a special place in Schreyer’s collection due to her personal connection with O’Keeffe. The artist’s telegram response to Schreyer’s ownership of the work reflects the deep appreciation shared between collector and artist.

In conclusion, Chara Schreyer’s remarkable journey as an art collector and philanthropist has left an indelible mark on the world of contemporary art. Her unwavering passion for collecting, coupled with her visionary approach to integrating art into living spaces, has resulted in a collection that defies categorization and transcends traditional boundaries.

With her collection set to take centre stage at Sotheby’s, Chara Schreyer’s legacy as a collector and patron of the arts continues to inspire, educate, and elevate the world of art for generations to come.

Her story reminds us that art is not just a possession but a transformative force that enriches lives and shapes the very spaces we inhabit.

Images: Sotheby’s

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