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Former San Diegans Bequest Major Works of Art to City’s Two Largest Art Institutions

SAN DIEGO—A private art collection amassed over more than 30 years is returning home to San Diego, bringing to the city masterpieces of minimalism and of German Expressionism. The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) and The San Diego Museum of Art are both the recipients of a major bequest valued at more than $40 million from the late Dr. Vance E. Kondon and his wife Elisabeth Giesberger.

Kondon was one of San Diego’s premier art collectors and an avid supporter of the city’s cultural scene. His collection ranged from figurative works from the first half of the 20th century to refined abstract pieces from 1950 forward.

Kondon served several terms on the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s Board of Trustees between 1971 and 1981, and his contemporary collection reflected the minimalist aesthetic that the Museum was presenting at that time, and for which the institution is still known.

MCASD received 30 important works of contemporary art from the 1950s to the early 1980s, including two large-scale white paintings by Robert Ryman, a signature multi-panel work by Brice Marden, and a fine minimalist canvas by Robert Mangold. The gift also includes a rare proto-pop Roy Lichtenstein canvas, important drawings by Franz Kline and Mark Tobey, and subtle abstractions by Piero Manzoni, Ad Dekkers, Christo, and Jules Olitski. Kondon’s interest in California art is conveyed with works by Craig Kauffman and Ron Davis. Other artists represented in the gift include Ben Akkerman, Arman, Jan Dibbets, Ans Hey, Ellsworth Kelly, Moshe Kupferman, Richard Serra, and Toon Verhoef.

“True museum collections are built upon this type of generous philanthropy,” said Hugh Davies, the David C. Copley director and CEO at MCASD. “As a past board member, Vance Kondon’s collection represents the sensibilities of the museum and its commitment to reductive abstraction. Simply receiving Robert Ryman’s canvas,Cable, would have been gift enough, but Vance Kondon went further by gifting 30 works that together reflect his legacy even as they expand upon the Museum’s own identity. We are truly honored to receive this incredible gift.”

The San Diego Museum of Art received 48 German Expressionist paintings, drawings, and prints. Key works include important paintings, watercolors, and drawings by Otto Dix; two paintings by Alexej von Jawlensky and four by Gabriele Munter; and two drawings by Gustav Klimt. The true highlights, however, are an erotic drawing by Egon Shiele and a large double-sided painting by Max Pechstein. Other major artists represented in the collection include Max Beckman, George Grosz, Ernst Kirchner, Oskar Kokoschka, and Emil Nolde.

“What makes this gift truly special is the rarity of the works of art we are inheriting,” says Roxana Velásquez, Executive Director at The San Diego Museum of Art. “We are honored to be a part of this exceptional endowment and to hang these new works of art alongside our already existing compilation of Expressionist paintings and drawings. This gift will bring extraordinary depth to our world-class permanent collection.”

Dr. Vance Kondon, a native of New Britain, Connecticut, and his wife, Elisabeth Giesbeger, a native of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, lived in La Jolla. Kondon’s two passions were medicine and art. He was a well-known gynecologist and obstetrician, and had a private medical practice in Pacific Beach for more than 40 years. Kondon had a history of loaning works from his collection to local venues, including MCASD (then known as the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art) and The San Diego Museum of Art. Part of his collection was featured in the first exhibition at the fledgling San Diego Art Center at Horton Plaza in 1985. Kondon and his Dutch wife relocated to the Netherlands, where the collection remained until recently. Kondon died in 1996 and Giesberger passed away in January 2011.

Honoring a long-time commitment to the San Diego art scene, key works from the collection have returned home to San Diego. Some of these works will be featured at both institutions: Iconic at the Museum of Contemporary Art this spring and a summer exhibition of German Expressionism at The San Diego Museum of Art.

Founded in 1941, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) is the preeminent contemporary visual arts institution in San Diego County. The Museum’s collection includes more than 4,000 works of art created since 1950. In addition to presenting exhibitions by international contemporary artists, the Museum serves thousands of children and adults annually at its varied education programs, and offers a rich program of film, performance, and lectures. MCASD is a private, nonprofit organization, with 501c3 tax-exempt status; it is supported by generous contributions and grants from MCASD Members and other individuals, corporations, foundations, and government agencies. Dr. Hugh M. Davies is The David C. Copley Director and CEO at MCASD. Institutional support for MCASD is provided by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture and the James Irvine Foundation.

The San Diego Museum of Art is located at 1450 El Prado in Balboa Park, San Diego, Calif., 92101. General Information, (619) 232-7931, Group Sales: (619) 696-1935, Website:, Twitter: @SDMA, Facebook:

The San Diego Museum of Art provides a rich and diverse cultural experience for 350,000 visitors annually. Located in the heart of beautiful Balboa Park, the Museum’s nationally renowned collections include Spanish and Italian old masters, South Asian paintings, and 19th and 20th century American paintings and sculptures. The Museum regularly features major exhibitions of art from around the world, as well as an extensive year-round schedule supporting cultural and educational programs for children and adults. At The San Diego Museum of Art, exhibition text is always in English and Spanish.

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