Stuart Collection at University of California San Diego



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Stuart Collection at University of California San Diego
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9500 Gilman Dr
La Jolla, California
United States

jcappetta's picture


San Diego was once known as the tuna capital of the world and the Stuart Collection is one of the few remnants of that gilded, fishy era.

It’s a uniquely parasitic series of 19 commissioned artworks installed on the campus of the University of California, San Diego. The collection isn’t associated with the university other than that it’s where the art is and that the university chancellor gets a ceremonial and as-yet unused veto power.

James Stuart DeSilva, a tuna-magnate and the collection’s initial funder, studied art history at Columbia University during his mid-life crisis and became the purest kind of art nerd. He was known for flying to Europe on a whim, with only a backpack, to hop between art exhibits. And his only stipulation for the Stuart Collection was that it be provocative, otherwise the commissions have no strings attached, it’s free money for real (unless you were a tuna).

Giant shoe? Tiled sun god? Crash-landed house? Provokes thought for sure, and some pieces do more than that. Bruce Nauman’s Vices and Virtues provoked a fat stack of outraged letters and a press conference in which a local councilman accused the Stuart Collection of “inciting infidelity in the community” for broadcasting the word lust in giant neon letters. He’s seen Animal House, he knows what happens in college.

The collection’s Director, Mary L. Beebe, was non-plussed by the pushback. When local newspapers pressed her to respond she asked why the councilman chose lust out of the 14 vices and virtues, “what does that say about him?” Anyway, she’s dealt with weirder things during her tenure, like creating a flyer asking if anybody had any large boulders they didn’t want so that Tim Hawkinson could use them to build a giant teddy bear. The Pala Band of Mission Indians ended up having a bunch of rocks that were too big to turn into gravel, but just the right size for a stuffed animal.

Do Ho Suh’s Fallen Star is only open Tuesdays and Thursday’s from 12:30 to 2:00 pm, but otherwise the Stuart Collection is a completely free, 24/7, open air museum, which will likely outlive the species of hominids that created it! Cop a map here!




  1. Accomando, Beth. July 7, 2017. “Behind the Stuart Collection.” Triton Magazine, Spring 2016. Accessed October 11, 2017.
  2. Stuart Collection. “About the Stuart Collection.” UC San Diego: Stuart Collection, 2017. Accessed October 11, 2017.
  3. Stuart Collection. “Tim Hawkinson Bear (2005).” UC San Diego: Stuart Collection, 2017. Accessed October 11, 2017.
  4. Timberg, Scott. September 19, 2002. “James DeSilva, 83: Funded Sculpture Collection at UC San Diego.” Los Angeles Times, 2017. Accessed October 11, 2017.