I'm waiting to hear details from Seattle Art Museum, but it's been confirmed that Mary Shirley has died. She was one of the namesakes and backers of the Olympic Sculpture Park, and she and her husband Jon Shirley, formerly of Microsoft, lived in Medina in a home packed with their art collection, much of which they gave to Seattle Art Museum over the years.
They were the owners of the Alexander Calder collection featured at SAM in 2009. Because of them, Calder's Eagle sits facing the Olympic Mountains in downtown Seattle, rescued from a Fort Worth bank plaza. I've only been to their home once, but it was generous of them to invite me at all, and I'll never forget that my favorite Chuck Close painting lives there: a realistic reclining nude with bikini tan lines who's almost 22 feet long and 11 feet high, executed in 1967. I also recall a purplish neon Ivan Navarro sculpture installed in the floor nearby (I think it was like this one), an infinite regress down into the earth under their living room.
President Obama visited their house as one of his campaign stops in September, at an event where each couple paid $35,800 to get in ("How Obama Spent His Sunday in Seattle").
The Shirleys have given money to Cornish for its new visual arts center, and supported other institutions, too.
I remember Mary as a salty talker and a smoker. This is a pretty cool picture of her looking period classy with their 1938 Alfa Romeo at a car show. She seemed sharp to me.
I'll report more as I get more information.
UPDATE from SAM. It sounds like it was unexpected, but I am not sure:
Mary Shirley was 73 and passed away last evening from a brief illness.
· They have three children and six grandchildren.
Their collection has been promised to SAM:
· Jon and Mary Shirley’s collection features Constantin Brancusi’s Bird in Space (1926), an icon of modernism, and Alberto Giacometti’s The Dog (1951). The collection is notable for an emphasis on sculpture and studio glass. Other highlights include a special concentration of works by Chuck Close and Alexander Calder, as well as works by Yves Klein, Jasper Johns, Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock that will strengthen SAM’s collection of 1940s-1960s modern art.
· Remembrances in her honor can be made to the Seattle Art Museum or Washington Women in Need.
· "Mary was a brilliant force in the life of the Seattle Art Museum. Her passion for art, love of people, curiosity, compassion and humor enriched everyone who knew her. Certainly the dedicated and loving partnership with her husband, Jon, has privileged this entire community. The Olympic Sculpture Park is one eloquent example of the wide-ranging contributions of time, energy and resources that Mary and Jon have together given to SAM and the Northwest." - Charlie Wright, Seattle Art Museum Board Chair