Contemporary Art

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

By Sotheby's

The Collection of Jerome and Ellen Stern reflects a lifetime of passionate and thoughtful art collecting. The Sterns searched the globe for contemporary sculpture, photography, paintings and drawings from emerging artists. Their support for young artists also extended to supporting international museums and institutions. As patrons of the Israel Museum and The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s African Art Council, the Sterns shared their devotion to cultivating the arts with a global audience. As supporters of the Studio Museum of Harlem and as Trustees of the New Museum, the Sterns introduced young artists from around the world to their native New York.   

Ellen, an academic in art history and archaeology, and Jerome, a venture capitalist, met at an art opening for the sculptor Serge Spitzer, who would later design their famous Westhampton artbarn. Throughout their marriage, their collecting ranged from Surrealism and Modernism to African art, photography, design and Contemporary art. Though their collecting interests were diverse, every piece reveals an intense intellectual curiosity. Although many pieces are thought provoking and at times even political, their collection also features the rare quality of humor. Each piece evidences Jerome and Ellen’s emotional connection to the collection.

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

The Sterns were not just patrons of the art world, but active participants in its changing landscape. Their friendships with the artists represented in the collection were enduring and close. They were committed to collecting the full breadth of Marlene Dumas, Wangechi Mutu and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s works. They forged loyal friendships with Serge Spitzer and Menashe Kadishman. Jerome and Ellen began collecting Wangechi Mutu early in her career and remained faithful as she gained fame. Wangechi was even married on their Westhampton property.    

This collection is characterized by academic rigor, inherent passion and unbridled joy. When the Sterns constructed the artbarn on their Westhampton property – lovingly referred to as “Camp Jerome” – they created not only the ideal forum for displaying their diverse pieces, but also a space where family, friends and visitors could learn more about emerging artists and find moments of quiet contemplation. The artbarn was home to an ever-changing roster of important works by Anna and Bernhard Blume, Mariko Mori and Huang Yong Ping, to name a few. It is a symbol of Jerome and Ellen’s true commitment to their collection and their dedication to creating a space to enjoy and appreciate their most treasured pieces. Their focus was always to live with family, to live with ideas, to live with joy, and TO LIVE WITH ART.

Related Articles & Videos

5 Pieces that Represent Jerome & Ellen Stern's Love of Photography

Marlene Dumas Confronts the Beauty and Ugliness of History

The Mischievous Collection of Jerome & Ellen Stern

Bold Collectors Who Lived with Art, Inside and Out

The Art-Filled Life of Jerome Stern

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


Inside Jerome & Ellen Stern's Westhampton Artbarn


Stay informed with Sotheby’s top stories, videos, events & news.

Receive the best from Sotheby’s delivered to your inbox.

By subscribing you are agreeing to Sotheby’s Privacy Policy. You can unsubscribe from Sotheby’s emails at any time by clicking the “Manage your Subscriptions” link in any of your emails.

More from Sotheby's