Mrs. Wilsey's fine art

Wealthy socialite enlists Fine Arts Museums staff to help with her personal art collection

Fine Arts Museums staff helped ship "The Pink Blouse" by Henri Matisse. It belongs to Board of Trustees President Dede Wilsey.

A little more than a year ago, Therese Chen, director of registration at San Francisco's de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, sent an email to another staffer concerning "Mrs. Wilsey's new Matisse."

That would be Diane "Dede" Wilsey, the wealthy art collector who is also president of the Board of Trustees of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Chen asked Steve Brindmore, then a museum staff member who also runs a personal art crating business, whether he had a crate for the oil painting, which is titled "The Pink Blouse." According to records from Sotheby's New York auction house, the estimated value of this painting is between $3 and $4 million.

"The painting is on an A-frame in the Examination Room," Chen wrote. "I'm taking the painting over to Dede on Wednesday ... for [an event], and then it will come back here to the de Young to be crated for Portland around the week of Jan. 23."

The exchange suggests that public museum facilities were being used to store and crate a piece of art from Wilsey's personal collection.

Timestamps show that the exchange happened around 1:30 on a Monday, during museum hours. The correspondence was sent using museum staff email. It's unclear what, if anything, this task had to do with the operations of a public museum. But FAMSF clearly handled a painting from the growing private art collection maintained by Wilsey, a major donor and key FAMSF fundraiser who loves Impressionist paintings and seems to gravitate toward works incorporating the color pink.

Beth Heinrich, a spokesperson for the Portland Art Museum, confirmed to the Guardian that a Matisse titled "The Pink Blouse" was indeed loaned to the museum from a private collection, and placed on display in its Impressionist galleries in February of 2012.

The email exchange between Chen and Brindmore is just one thread in a trove of correspondence, invoices, and other documentation anonymously submitted to the Guardian. Put together, the information shows museum staff being asked, during normal business hours, to handle, photograph, crate or arrange shipments for more than a dozen different pieces from Wilsey's personal art collection in just the past two years. The documentation also shows several examples in which museum employees were directed by Chen to digitally reproduce works from Wilsey's private collection.

It's not uncommon for art collectors to put private pieces in the collection of a museum, nor it is unusual for collectors to lend out art to other museums. And if the de Young received some benefit from its association with Wilsey's art, it wouldn't be surprising (or inappropriate) for the museum to help reproduce or ship it.

On the other hand, if Wilsey is loaning out the pieces on her own, from her private collection, and using museum resources, it could raise conflicts of interest.

The de Young, for example, wasn't cosponsoring the Portland exhibit where the Matisse was shown. Since Wilsey just bought the Matisse, it couldn't have been part of the de Young's collection.

There's no indication that it was anything but her personal loan of a valuable painting — facilitated by the staff of a nonprofit that runs a city museum.

Invoices show that some staff members were paid separately for assisting with Wilsey's art collection, in some cases through independent businesses.


The Fine Arts Museums include the de Young and the Legion of Honor. Included as charitable trust departments under the City Charter, they are governed by a 43-member Board of Trustees, which is responsible for appointing a director. Wilsey has presided over the body as board president since the 1990s. The bylaws of the board were changed to eliminate term limits for the president, meaning she could stay in the post for as long as her board colleagues want.


Posted by lillipublicans on Mar. 02, 2013 @ 8:09 pm
Posted by lillipublicans on Mar. 02, 2013 @ 5:47 pm

You make it too easy.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Mar. 02, 2013 @ 6:06 pm

[battle sounds]
[Black Knight defeats another knight in a bloody battle as Arthur watches]

ARTHUR:You fight with the strength of many men, Sir Knight.
I am Arthur, King of the Britons.
I seek the finest and the bravest knights in the land to join me in my Court of Camelot.
You have proved yourself worthy; will you join me?
You make me sad. So be it. Come, Patsy.

BLACK KNIGHT: None shall pass.


BLACK KNIGHT: None shall pass.

ARTHUR: I have no quarrel with you, good Sir knight, but I must cross this bridge.

BLACK KNIGHT: Then you shall die.

ARTHUR: I command you as King of the Britons to stand aside!

BLACK KNIGHT: I move for no man.

ARTHUR: So be it!


[parry thrust]

[ARTHUR chops the BLACK KNIGHT's left arm off after a short battle]

ARTHUR: Now stand aside, worthy adversary.

BLACK KNIGHT: 'Tis but a scratch.

ARTHUR: A scratch? Your arm's off!

BLACK KNIGHT: No, it isn't.

ARTHUR: Well, what's that then?

BLACK KNIGHT: I've had worse.

ARTHUR: You liar!

BLACK KNIGHT: Come on you pansy!


[parry thrust]

[ARTHUR chops the BLACK KNIGHT's right arm off]

ARTHUR: Victory is mine! [kneeling] We thank thee Lord, that in thy merc-

[Black Knight kicks Arthur in the head while he is praying]

BLACK KNIGHT: Come on then.


BLACK KNIGHT: Have at you!

ARTHUR: You are indeed brave, Sir knight, but the fight is mine.

BLACK KNIGHT: Oh, had enough, eh?

ARTHUR: Look, you stupid bastard, you've got no arms left.



BLACK KNIGHT: Just a flesh wound.

[Headbutts Arthur in the chest]

ARTHUR: Look, stop that.

BLACK KNIGHT: Chicken! Chicken!

ARTHUR: Look, I'll have your leg. Right! [whop]

BLACK KNIGHT: Right, I'll do you for that!

ARTHUR: You'll what?

BLACK KNIGHT: Come 'ere!

ARTHUR: What are you going to do, bleed on me?

BLACK KNIGHT: I'm invincible!

ARTHUR: You're a loony.

BLACK KNIGHT: The Black Knight always triumphs! Have at you! Come on then.


[ARTHUR chops the BLACK KNIGHT's other leg off]

BLACK KNIGHT: All right; we'll call it a draw.

ARTHUR: Come, Patsy.

BLACK KNIGHT: Oh, oh, I see, running away, 'eh? ... You yellow bastards! Come back here and take what's coming to you.... I'll bite your legs off!

Posted by marcos on Mar. 02, 2013 @ 12:16 pm

Ah I see, you prefer high ticket prostitution. Wilsey may have done a lot for SF but it sounds like SF has done plenty for her as well. But I guess there's never supposed to be any need to wonder about what she is doing with SF tax dollars - move along, nothing to see here.

Posted by kyoung on Mar. 22, 2013 @ 9:02 pm

then this is a non issue. Museums often have exhibitions of art works that are privately owned since otherwise they would never been seen at all. Why would that be better?

If the Mona Lisa were privately owned, would it be wrong for a museum to show it? And to care for it?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 01, 2013 @ 12:02 pm

Isn't this whole point of government to shovel the resources of the unwashed masses into big piles so that the already rich can readily feast on it?

Posted by marcos on Mar. 01, 2013 @ 12:14 pm

packed on the one "free" day a month? Ditto the De Young, and so on.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 01, 2013 @ 12:27 pm

It's just a means for her to save on those terribly unfair taxes. People of such finer sensibility need to be in position of telling us what art is and the fact that she's hit on a nifty color coding system should be seen as a boon to us all.

I like the pink clown art the most.

Posted by u spill bacillin on Mar. 01, 2013 @ 7:35 pm
Posted by Lucretius Snappus on Mar. 02, 2013 @ 11:35 am

non issue-based personality conflicts between generally thoughtful commenters to be counterproductive. Focus your energies combating stupidity. There is plenty of it evident in the comments on this website, especially from Lucretia Snapples and anon.

Down with stupidity!!!

Power to the thoughtful!!!

Posted by San Francisco Anti-Stupidity Campaign on Mar. 03, 2013 @ 12:37 am

What is the story, we had woman who owns painting, stored and then shipped from the FAMSF, a woman who has given time and money and more time and money. She used staff to help crate the art to Portland, I know places loan out each others art, still I don't see the story. Yes she had the staff help, like I said before she has given money and time, she will give more money and time.

We have other problems to solve, other stories to write and to be read. Graft, green and corruption. I don't care about a woman who had a painting that she loaned out, they shipped it to Portland.

I like Henri Matisse, if the art work will benefit the people of San Francisco, Portland, the FAMSF and the art lover of the world. I am fine with it.

Posted by Garrett on Mar. 06, 2013 @ 2:16 pm

I am distraught that you don't have a newer photo of Mrs. Wilsey holding her tasteful jewel-encrusted clutch, custom made in the shape of her late canine companion.

Posted by War Against Terrorism on Mar. 07, 2013 @ 1:39 pm


If you want your art stored, moved, or packed, try calling Atthowe Fine Art Services, they can be found at

In the meantime, you should stop scamming on museum resrouces, they are ours not yours. And furthermore, you should pay back what you owe the city and county of SF for your thievery.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 18, 2013 @ 6:07 am

I'm actually a Republican. I used to be a hipster anarchist but now live in the 'burbs of SF, happily I might add. And we're contributing members to the museum.

Wilsey is completely wrong, completely awful and she should not be using the taxpayers resources for her personal art collection. She can call someone else and PAY THEM to pack and store her important pink art.

Speaking of the left, the left runs this city, and why isn't anything being done about this on the SF council? Well?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 28, 2013 @ 12:27 am

Wait so they loaned out a custom piece of art to someone? sounds fishy to me
if they can trace a single custom koozie then why is that hard for a painting?

Posted by Guest on May. 11, 2013 @ 9:52 pm

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