Contemporary Art

To Live with Art: Property from the Jerome & Ellen Stern Collection

By Sotheby's

S otheby’s is honored to present TO LIVE WITH ART: Property from the Jerome & Ellen Stern Collection. Compiled over 60 years from auctions, artists and galleries, the Stern’s collection reflects passion, curiosity, knowledge, a sense of humor and love of art. The unique collection comprises over 250 lots of Modern, Surrealist, Contemporary, Israeli and African Art, and 20th Century Design, which will be offered in a series of auctions beginning in November 2017 and continuing through March 2018.

Amy Cappellazzo, Chairman of Sotheby’s Fine Art Division, commented: “Driven by the thrill of the hunt and gifted with a discerning eye, Jerome & Ellen Stern collected with passion, disregarding geographical and categorical divisions. The resulting curation, which spans hundreds of years and dozens of countries, mirrors their delight in participating at every level of the art world: from attending art fairs and cultivating relationships with artists to purchasing at auction and donating their time, energy and money to museums.  It is a privilege for us to offer their collection to the next generation of caretakers, and to share with the public the joys of living with art.”

An Artful Life: Art & The Stern Family

Jerome & Ellen Stern at home in the Upper West Side © Frederic Brenner.

Jerome and Ellen Stern epitomized the phrase ‘to live with art’.  In the late 1990s, with every inch of their Upper West Side apartment filled with a growing collection, and nowhere to hang their recent acquisition of Mariko Mori’s monumental Empty Dream, which measures over 288 inches in length, the Sterns sought an additional space to install their collection.  They engaged the sculptor and their friend Serge Spitzer to create a 7,500 square-foot space to showcase their collection of photography and sculpture on their compound in the Hamptons; dubbing it the ‘artbarn.’

Just as they treated the works of art in their collection with the greatest care and respect, Jerome and Ellen Stern cherished their relationships with curators, dealers and artists. In the words of Karl Katz, founding curator and director of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, and director the Jewish Museum in New York, speaking about Jerome, “the relationship is not patron-artist, but friends…and a lot of his art, the contemporary young art, is really a collection of friends.”  


The Stern’s warmth and vigor extended beyond the world of collecting to the realm of philanthropy.  

From supporting young artists as well as museums, to famously providing the funds for the restrooms at the New Museum that now bear Jerome and Ellen’s name.  Their collection was routinely loaned to international institutions including the National Gallery, London, the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao and the Royal Academy of Arts, London, as well as American institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum and the Studio Museum of Harlem. 

David Smith’s sculpture Voltri Bolton X on exhibition at Chatsworth House. Estimate $6,000,000–8,000,000.

Highlights from the Collection

The sprawling gardens of Chatsworth House are the backdrop for the first exhibition of works from the Jerome & Ellen Stern Collection. A highlight of Sotheby’s 12th edition of Beyond Limits – the annual exhibition of monumental sculpture – David Smith’s Voltri Bolton X will hold court amongst other giants of American sculpture before it is offered in New York  at the November Contemporary Art Evening Auction. This iconic example of the artist’s oeuvre, personally selected by Jerome on a visit to the artist’s studio on Bolton’s Landing, carries a pre-sale estimate of $6–8 million, and is a fitting introduction to a collection that pays tribute to sculpture as an art form.     

The Contemporary Art Evening Auction on 16 November and the Contemporary Art Day Auction on 17 November will be headlined by works from the Jerome & Ellen Stern Collection. In addition to David Smith, artists such as Marlene Dumas, Wangechi Mutu, David Hammons and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye will be featured in these marquee auctions of the New York autumn sales calendar. The offerings illustrate the diversity of media, stylistic currents and movements from the Stern’s collection, as well as the relationships that they cultivated with these artists over the years; in the case of Marlene Dumas, it was after Jerome and Ellen saw her work in the first South Africa biennial in the mid-1990s that they began collecting her paintings. Over the next nine months, a total of fifteen works of art by Dumas from the Stern’s Collection will be offered, led by Magdalena, which will be sold in the Contemporary Art Evening Auction on 16 November (estimate $3–4 million)  

Two days prior to the Contemporary Auction, the Jerome & Ellen Stern Collection will have a noteworthy presence in the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening and Day Sales. The 10+ works on offer, including paintings by Pablo Picasso, Paul Delvaux, Wifredo Lam and Victor Brauner; sculpture by Aristide Maillol and Max Ernst; as well as works on paper by many of the same artists, highlight the excellent tastes of the Sterns.   

At the end of the calendar year, design works from the Jerome & Ellen Stern Collection will be offered in two auctions: Important Design and Tiffany: Dreaming in Glass.  Ranging from large-scale outdoor furniture by Scott Burton to rare light fixtures by iconic American designers including Greene & Greene and Tiffany Studios, these works are an illustration of how these collectors lived and interacted with art on a daily basis.  

The Stern’s passion and dedication for artists from Israel, the Middle East and Africa, particularly from South Africa and Cameroon, will be honored with a selection of offerings in Sotheby’s auctions of Israeli & International Art and Modern and Contemporary African Art. The former, taking place in New York on 20 December, will shine a spotlight on artists including Eliezer Sonnenschein, Adi Nes and Michael Gross. The latter, Sotheby’s second annual auction of Modern and Contemporary African Art in March 2018, will showcase sculptures by artists including Nandipha Mntambo and Claudette Schreuders as well as prints and works on paper by Pascale Marthine Tayou. 


Finally, in March 2018, Sotheby’s offerings will culminate in a dedicated sale of TO LIVE WITH ART: The Jerome & Ellen Stern Collection. This auction, comprised of over 150works of art, encapsulates the family’s passion for young artists from around the world. Particularly robust in sculpture, including African & Oceanic works of art, the spring auction featuring works by Olafur Eliasson, Marcos Ramirez Erre, Nandipha Mntamboand Edward Kienholz, prints by Gerhard Richter and photographs by well-known artists such as Anna and Bernhard Blume and Zhang Huan will serve as inspiration for collectors of all ages.

Sale Schedule of To Live With Art: The Jerome & Ellen Stern Collection

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening | 14 November

Impressionist & Modern Art Day | 15 November

Contemporary Art Evening | 16 November

Contemporary Art Day | 17 November

Important Design | 13 December

Tiffany: Dreaming in Glass | 13 December

Israeli & International Art | 20 December

Modern and Contemporary African Art | 28 March 2018, London

To Live with Art: Property from the Jerome & Ellen Stern Collection | 5 March 2018, New York

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From Creation to Now: David Smith's Voltri-Bolton X


Inside Jerome & Ellen Stern's Westhampton Artbarn


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