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.
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. David Hammons visited the Sterns’ New York City apartment when his double-sided work on paper was installed in a unique custom-built display of the Sterns’ invention.
The Sterns’ zeal for discovering new pieces is best illustrated in the acquisition of David Smith’s Voltri- Bolton X. Jerome drove hours to Bolton Landing, the birthplace of this fundamental series in Smith’s career. In his excited determination, he had not adequately prepared for the weather that greeted him. Undeterred, he trudged through the snowbanks in his designer loafers to select his sculpture from among the seminal Voltri series.
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.
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