Recent public comments by Bellosguardo Foundation chair Dick Wolf begin to offer some insight into the nonprofit’s plans for the 23-acre Clarke estate. While the foundation has stated since its formation more than four years ago that it intends on honoring Clarke’s will by opening the property as a public arts institution, few details about the ambitious undertaking had previously been disclosed.
During last month’s inaugural fundraising gala, according to attendees, Wolf expressed a desire to turn the estate into “the most important cultural stop” between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Wolf said he and the foundation had found a way to solve their “content problem” ― meaning the property’s conspicuous lack of valuable artwork ― though he stopped short of fully articulating their solution. Wolf did, however, reference The Frick Collection in Manhattan, explaining it was his “absolute favorite museum” growing up and that Bellosguardo “is literally a Santa Barbara version of The Frick.”
Located in the opulent Upper East Side home of late 19th-century industrialist Henry Clay Frick, The Frick Collection features some of the best-known paintings by major European artists, as well as 18-century French furniture, Oriental rugs, and numerous works of sculpture and porcelain. Admission tickets cost $22. It hosts regular exhibitions, including the current showcase of two masterpieces of early Netherlandish painting. In a coincidental connection to California’s Central Coast, both works feature St. Barbara.
Wolf said he hopes Bellosguardo will achieve the same reputation as The Frick ― frequently described as one of the best small art museums in the United States ― “over the next 10 to 20 years.” He lamented he could not immediately offer the gala crowd more information about the foundation’s plans, referencing the delay in transferring the estate from the New York County Public Administrator’s Office to the nonprofit. “This is finally done,” he said. The transfer was completed in December 2017. Wolf said an official announcement is “probably six months in the future.”
There exists some speculation that Wolf and the foundation may attempt to obtain artwork previously housed at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. A representative of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, attorney Charles Patrizia, sits on Bellosguardo’s board of directors. Rumors have also swirled that Wolf, in his comments, may have been alluding to an attempt to borrow art from The Frick when it closes next year for renovations. Wolf and foundation president Jeremy Lindaman did not respond to requests for comment.