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SONOMA Magagazine
'STILL LIFE' May 2018
 










 

STILL LIFE

In a Petaluma chateau, the art speaks for itself.
by CAROLE KELLEHER photgraphy by CHRIS HARDY

HAVE YOU EVER ADMIRED a painting or piece of art, considered buying it, and then been struck by the thought, "But where would I put it?" Ron Collins doesn't face that problem. He has his own private art gallery, hidden away in the Petaluma hills, locked behind gates, and enjoyed only by Collins and those he invites over to share in its eccentric abundance.
His 13,000-square-foot country French-style chateau, built in 1993, sits on a 24-acre estate adorned with dramatic outdoor sculptures, including a massive rendering of Venus giving the moon a bath, entitled "Luna is Happy." Inside awaits a vast array of artwork on three high-ceilinged floors. Collins doesn't know how many pieces he has, but says there are "at least 1,000."

Collins, 83, a native of Dallas, Texas, still wears his signature black leather cowboy boots. Although he majored in math, he remembers loving art since he was a young boy. The first half of his career was in the aerospace industry in Texas, until 1982 when he relocated to San Francisco to handle the finances and business administration of his brother's company, Now Designs. He stayed with Now Designs, a textile company that specializes in aprons, potholders, dishtowels, and such, until his brother Donald Collins sold the company in 2004.
The Petaluma chateau was built and designed by Donald Collins' life partner, Robert Danley, an industrial architect. The couple lived there until Robert passed away in 2006, followed by Donald's passing in 2011. Ron Collins, who lives in Marin County, then inherited the property and turned it into a private display of his personal art collection.
Every medium is represented — paintings, sculpture, ceramics, collages, mixed media, photography— and the majority of the work is contemporary. "It's an eclectic collection with a scatterbrained edge," he says.

Collins visits his gallery about once a week, often bringing along a new acquisition. He lives with his partner, Donna Morris, who frequently joins him at the chateau, and has two adult daughters who live in Texas. Collins and Morris occasionally entertain at the site, and private fundraisers for Marin MOCA and the Oakland Museum of Art have been held there.
Collins has a sculpture by the actor Anthony Quinn, a painting by famous San Francisco poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, a guitar strap painted by rocker Carlos Santana, bronzes by Erte, and a portrait of a woman by Alex Katz.

Especially charming is a painting by an 11-year-old interpreting the work of Jackson Pollock that Collins purchased for $100. There are even pieces found in salvage yards.
He has never sold anything, and doesn't intend to stop acquiring. "There's still some room left," he says of the building in which every inch of wall and floor space seems to display something.
As for the collection's worth? "I don't have any idea," he says. ©

© SONOMA Magazine 2018

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