In Memoriam: Gerald E. Buck

In Memoriam
Gerald E. Buck, 1940–2013

The museum is mourning the loss of one of the great patrons and collectors of California art, Gerald E. Buck. A longtime resident of south Orange County, Gerald passed away on August 24 after a brief illness. It was just seven months after the death of his beautiful wife of fifty years, Bente.
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For over twenty-five years, Gerald was a passionate champion of California art from the late nineteenth century to the present day. During his years of collecting, he amassed what is without question the most impressive and encyclopedic collection in private hands—The Buck Collection. His enthusiasm was equally matched by his desire to learn as much as he could about the subject. To that end, he also acquired numerous books, pamphlets, and catalogues on California art, eventually having a library of several thousand items. Those who saw him at lectures and symposiums observed him taking copious notes.
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“Gerald Buck was a truly rare breed of art collector; driven by both a quest for knowledge and a passion for the meaning and embodiment of art,” said Laguna Art Museum’s chairman of the board of trustees, Robert Hayden III. “The art collection he formed, The Buck Collection, wasn’t simply a checklist of the most famous or acclaimed California artists, but instead a tapestry weaving together divergent practices, mores, and thoughts forming a poetic telling of artistic practice in the state over the last century. On a personal note, Gerald provided me with sage advice on a number of important museum related issues that arose during my term as Board Chair and also helped educate me to seeing, appreciating, and understanding art. I feel privileged to have called him both a mentor and friend.”
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Gerald was generous with his collection in loaning works and providing financial support to exhibitions and publications on California art. He became active with Laguna Art Museum in the late 1980s and began serving on the museum’s long-range planning committee in 1988. He was on the board of trustees from 1989 to 1995. He chaired the collections committee from 1992 to 1993, the year that the museum was celebrating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the founding of the Laguna Beach Art Association. Through his efforts, many anniversary gifts of art were added to the collection, several of which are published in 75 Works, 75 Years. Gerald was also an active member of the Historical Collections Council, serving as its president from 1988–1989.
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After the reestablishment of Laguna Art Museum in 1997, he continued to be an active member and supporter. He and Bente were members of the Advisory Circle.
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Gerald was a lender to several exhibitions at the museum, most recently Clarence Hinkle and Best Kept Secret. That he was a lender to both those very different exhibitions reveals how expansive his collection is. In the last year, Gerald rejoined the collections committee, and his reasoned and careful comments will be sorely missed. He was also an active member of the museum’s Historical Art Council and Contemporary Collectors Council. He accompanied a CCC trip to see collections and exhibitions in Rancho Santa Fe and La Jolla on June 8, 2013, and was as enthusiastic as ever about what he saw.
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In recent years Gerald purchased and renovated the old post office building on Broadway in Laguna Beach. He transformed the interior of the building into a state-of-the-art gallery and conducted private tours for small groups. Those who saw it were impressed beyond words.
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Gerald held several other positions in the art community. He was a member of the board of directors of the Fellows of Contemporary Art from 1991 to 1994. He was a member of the board of trustees of the Archives of American Art from 1994 to present. He served on the collections committee for the Orange County Museum of Art from 2005 through mid-November 2011. He was a member of the board of directors of the Palm Springs Art Museum Contemporary Art Council from 2008 to present.
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In the business world, Gerald was a partner of the Foothill Ranch Company since its formation in the late 1980s. For the development of Foothill Ranch, Gerald added an art in public spaces component, and over one hundred works of art were installed in the community. Laguna Art Museum contributed a work to the program, Jeffrey Laudenslager’s Classic/Industrial Balance, 1990. The large steel construction sculpture, which was a gift of Nancy and James L. Krasne in 1991, can be seen at the corner of Portola Parkway and Lake Forest Drive.
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Gerald is survived by his daughter Christina Buck, her husband, and two grandchildren, and his son, Alan Buck.