November 2023 | New York
“The motivating factor in all my collecting has always been one simple idea: I’ve always wanted to collect works by artists that changed the course of art history.”
Few collections are as thoroughly remarkable in scope, quality, and identity as The Collection of Chara Schreyer, and even fewer endure with such a resounding curatorial legacy. A lifelong student of art, Chara today stands as one of the most consequential collectors and patrons of post-war and contemporary art in the 21st century. Her rigorous, fearless collection defies simple classification and features seminal works from the artists who flourished in the post-war period and would define the leading art movements of the time, from Conceptualism to Minimalism and beyond.
Now, the culmination of decades of bold and passionate collecting and her conviction to transform and elevate life into art, the collection of Chara Schreyer will be offered at Sotheby’s beginning this November in the Contemporary Evening Auction during the marquee New York Sales, with further sales to continue through 2024.
First Look: The Collection of Chara Schreyer
Beginning with Marcel Duchamp, who serves as the Conceptual figurehead from which the rest of the collection extends from, the Collection of Chara Schreyer encompasses hundreds of artworks that celebrate interconnectedness, adaptability, and freedom, as well as her insatiable intellectual curiosity. From Minimalist masterworks by Frank Stella and Donald Judd to extraordinary Conceptual sculptures by Eva Hesse, Robert Gober, and Joseph Beuys, the Collection celebrates the new forms of art pioneered during the heady days of post-war Conceptualism, tracing an ever-expanding universe of artistic expressions that spoke to Chara in a unique way. Chara would famously refer to these works as “making strange,” paying homage to the unique and astounding ability of art to change perceptions, making the familiar strange and the strange familiar. Additional artists which form the core of the Collection include Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha, Mark Bradford, and Christopher Wool, while female artists such as Georgia O'Keeffe, Louise Bourgeois, and Lee Bontecou, among others, reflect Chara’s lifelong commitment to supporting and collecting women artists.
As Chara defined her singular and defining taste as a collector, she would begin the process of redesigning and expanding her living spaces to exhibit her art in dialogue with meticulous care – transforming each of her residences into a custom-designed gallery-like space, carefully curated to reflect the unique environment from Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay Area. Spanning a variety of nontraditional art styles and materials, including neon, video art, large-scale sculptures, process art, and much more, her homes deliberately blurred the boundary between art and environment.
Published in 2016, the iconic book ART HOUSE: The Collaboration of Chara Schreyer & Gary Hutton (Assouline), memorializes Schreyer and designer Gary Hutton’s longtime creative partnership and is a definitive volume for collectors of contemporary art, as it perfectly captures Schreyer’s dedicated vision as a collector and ethos of collecting art to experience it personally. The collection would further be celebrated in Making Strange (DelMonico Books, 2021), featuring a range of in-depth essays exploring nearly 250 works from the collection.
“I always like to be available to people who want tours of my collection—and not just trustees. I’ve done tours for people not in the art world. I love doing those because people will say to me afterward, ‘I’m not afraid of contemporary art anymore. You’ve made me understand how to look at it.’ For me, it’s a really intellectual exercise, and a great love of mine—I just love to share.”
The full story of Chara Schreyer’s collection, however, cannot be told without the spirit of intention and generosity that sustained it. This ethos is rooted in her personal foundations and sensibilities coming from an extended family of Holocaust survivors. Beyond the venture of collecting art, here, Chara also remained dedicated to both inviting artists and sharing their work with an open audience: over the past decade, she has not only hosted artists including Mark Bradford and Catherine Opie, but also welcomed over two hundred tours for various university groups, museum boards, and cultural institutions at her homes. In addition to her legacy as a celebrated collector and curator, Schreyer’s commitment to giving back also inspired her various roles as a longtime patron and trustee to major art institutions, such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and the Hammer Museum.
Sotheby's New York
1–15 November 2023