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Living the Artistic Life on Russian Hill

In advance of a special event, go behind the scenes at a collector's home

The art-filled interior of Dan and Clare Calevero
For Private Collections, Dan and Clare Calevero will open their home for a tour.
All photos by Patricia Chang

When it comes to art, Clare and Dan Carlevaro don't follow the model of a stark, white gallery. The couple is known for displaying their collection anywhere and everywhere in their Russian Hill home. "We have art in the bathroom, the closet, even hanging on the ceiling," says Clare. "We aren't very precious about it."

Their collection will be on display during the 16th annual Private Collections Tour on March 16 (a separate launch party and tour happens this Wednesday). For the event, seven art collectors open their private homes to the public to benefit Enterprise for High School Students.

When the couple saw their home 25 years ago, it was love at first sight. "It's a 1904 house, but when we first looked at it, it had just been extensively remodeled by Agnes Bourne," says Clare. "The previous owner had purchased it and renovated it for herself in great style as a divorce present to herself. But just as work finished, she went on a ski trip and fell in love with her instructor. She put the house on the market and moved to Aspen, or somewhere like that, to be with him."

The Carlevaros were enchanted with the home and its astonishing views of the city. But their first question was, "Where will we put the art?" It turns out that urban living provided the answer. "Like many city homes, this house sits adjacent to the neighbors," Clare says. "That really worked in our favor, because it meant we had more wall space to hang things."

Clare is the retired owner of Art Exchange, a gallery of modern and contemporary art. She and Dan have worked to build significant collections of American Abstract Art ("It's abbreviated AAA, but it's not the self-help or automobile group," she jokes); art jewelry; and works by Ruth Wall, Alice Rhoades, Lynn Beldner, and Agelio Batle (an artist she's writing a book about). "There is nothing here that you would instantly recognize," she says. "There are no works by Joan Miró or Alexander Calder, just things we care about."

"We look for art that's beautiful, well made, and thoughtful," Clare says. "We are looking for work that's authentic, rather than work that's riffing off someone else. Other than that, there's been no real strategy to our purchases. They are all happenstance."

As for the rather unconventional display of their works, much of that is unplanned as well. "The piece on the ceiling is by Agelio Batle. I saw it displayed in a gallery, and it had been hung horizontally around the room," she says. "At home, I was lying in bed thinking about the work and staring at the ceiling—and I thought, 'Oh my god, it would go there!'" Today, that room is her office, but the art still starts low and climbs the ceiling.

Another unconventional display is in Clare's closet. "I've always been drawn to accessories," she says. "I dress simply, but I wear very distinctive jewelry—I think people have come to expect it." Rather than put her collection in boxes or drawers, she hangs it around a large mirror with hooks, creating something of a frame.

Clare is also responsible for the furnishing of the home. "I have tried to work with interior designers before, and it hasn't worked for me," she says. "Our home doesn't look staged or designed." And don't think she will be fluffing or editing for the upcoming tour. "I believe in sharing our collection when we can. We allow a few tours through each year, and they see the house like it is. Seeing the works in a real, lived-in home is refreshing for people. I hope it inspires them to see how they could collect and display art themselves."

For more information and tickets to the events, visit the Private Collections website.

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