The museum, located in the university's "arts district," is the culmination of years of acquiring and caring for a collection that spanned American art from post-World War II to the present day. When the museum opened in 2014, Mr. Anderson stated that the initial gift of 121 works of art represented "the best of the best" of what the family had amassed. Having a dedicated space that would be open to the public and would focus on educating people about contemporary art had been a longtime dream and mission for the collector and his family.
The Andersons announced in 2011 that they would donate 121 works by 86 artists to the university, with Stanford in charge of constructing a free-standing building to house the collection.
By that time, the Andersons had already donated much of their collection, which once numbered more than 1,200 pieces of art, to various museums, including Stanford, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
With Mr. Anderson's death, the art world has lost a fervent champion. "Hunk Anderson had an infectious enthusiasm and passion for art, and for sharing art to benefit society broadly," Stanford President Emeritus John Hennessy said in a written statement issued today.
"He just lit up whenever he described what each work meant, and how it inspired creativity," Mr. Hennessy said. "It was this shared passion that bonded us, as we met through our mutual interest in visual arts.
"Hunk's insistence that the family's remarkable collection go to a place that would curate it in perpetuity, so that it could be used, shared and seen, reflected his philosophy that art can and should inspire all of us. All of us at Stanford will always have the deepest affection for Hunk as a generous, big-hearted man."
The history behind the Anderson Collection is well-known to many Peninsula residents: After a trip to Europe in the 1960s, the Andersons decided to collect art. They visited galleries, immersed themselves in art history books and became friends with local experts like artist Nathan Oliveira and Albert Elsen, professor of art history at Stanford.
The Andersons did not, however, use art consultants or advisers to assist them in their collecting. From the outset, collecting was a family affair, as the couple, later joined by daughter Mary Patricia ("Putter"), began to purchase art and became known in the art world.
Initial efforts at buying Impressionist art led to the conclusion that works of high quality were not available. They turned their attention to the work of the Abstract Expressionists (artists working mainly in New York in the 1940s and 50s) and were able to acquire top-tier paintings by artists such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the collection grew as the couple added artists working in the Pop Art, Minimalist, Funk Art and Photorealism styles. During these decades, the Anderson Collection was consistently included by Art News Magazine in its annual listing of Top 200 Collectors in the World.
In the beginning, the art was displayed in the Anderson home. As the collection grew, Mr. Anderson, who was one of the principal founders of Saga Foods, asked his partners if he could hang pieces from the collection in the firm's Sand Hill Road headquarters in Menlo Park. This began a new phase of the collection, with an emphasis on public education. The art work was professionally installed with didactic labeling and other educational materials provided. Lectures about the art were offered and soon a public tour program was put in place.
Even after Saga was bought out by Marriot in 1986 and the Sand Hill Road buildings purchased by the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation in 1987, Mr. Anderson maintained an office in the complex. By now retired, he continued to go to work each day, overseeing the collection (then totaling over 1,000 pieces), deciding upon installations within Quadrus, considering loan applications from museums and requests for tours of both the Sand Hill buildings and the Anderson home. Often, tour groups visiting the home would be greeted by Mr. Anderson in the foyer, where he would urge them to consult the specially prepared art maps, but to mainly "just use your eyes."
Through the 1990s the Andersons continued to collect, although at a slower pace, becoming familiar fixtures at the seasonal auctions in New York City. They also established friendships with noted gallerists and with the artists themselves. It was not uncommon to find Frank Stella or Ellsworth Kelly joining Mr. Anderson for a walk around the Quadus complex.
As the collection grew to include the Bay Area Figurative School and other California-based artists, Mr. Anderson would say that it was a "collection of collections" that reflected the family's interest in artists working in new and innovative ways.
Mr. Anderson credited his daughter for introducing him to cutting-edge contemporary artists (often based in Los Angeles, where she once owned a gallery) and keeping the collection current.
Hunk Anderson once expressed to this writer that "art collectors don't really own the art; we are just stewards, caring for it for future generations." In an interview for Gentry Magazine last September, he reflected on the current status of the Anderson Collection, with gifts of the Pop Art collection to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, works on paper to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and the gift of major works to the Anderson Collection at Stanford, saying "All of our art has found happy homes." He seemed genuinely pleased that his passion for art collecting, which had afforded him so much pleasure, would now be shared with the public.
One of the major paintings in the Anderson's Pop Art collection (now on display at SFMOMA) is a self-portrait by Andy Warhol, who said, "The idea is not to live forever, but to create something that will." Hunk Anderson would have probably agreed with that sentiment, and his legacy, his cherished art collection, will be enjoyed by many for years to come.
A public memorial for Hunk Anderson will be held at the Anderson Collection at Stanford sometime in April.
Sheryl Nonnenberg was a curatorial associate and collection manager at the Anderson Collection from 1994 to 1999.
This story contains 1128 words.
Stories older than 90 days are available only to subscribing members. Please help sustain quality local journalism by becoming a subscribing member today.
If you are already a subscriber, please log in so you can continue to enjoy unlimited access to stories and archives. Subscriptions start at $5 per month and may be cancelled at any time.