H. Peter Stern
1928 – 2018
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Storm King’s co-founder H. Peter Stern.
“H. Peter Stern, 90, Co-Founder of Storm King Art Center, Dies”
The New York Times, November 15, 2018
In 1960, H. Peter Stern co-founded Storm King Art Center, with his father-in-law, Ralph E. Ogden. Over several decades as Storm King’s Founding President and Chair of the Board, he transformed Storm King into an internationally recognized destination for experiencing large-scale art in nature.
Peter Stern was born in 1928 in Hamburg, Germany, and grew up in Bucharest, Romania. His family fled Europe in 1939 and moved to Scarsdale, New York in 1940. Stern graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard College in 1950. He earned a MA from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs in 1953 and a JD from Yale Law School in 1954. After a short time at the law firm, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver and Jacobson, he was recruited by Ralph E. Ogden, his father-in-law, to join the family business, Star Expansion Company, a leading manufacturer of steel fasteners. After Ogden’s death in 1974, Stern devoted more time to Storm King and began to develop it into a truly public museum. Over the next three decades, working closely with Storm King’s Director and Chief Curator, David Collens, Stern expanded a program of major site-specific commissions at the Art Center to include iconic works by Isamu Noguchi, Richard Serra, Andy Goldsworthy, and Maya Lin. He significantly increased outdoor exhibition space at Storm King and actively worked to preserve the Art Center’s long views of the Hudson Highlands and Schunnemunk Mountain. In 1976, Stern arranged a loan of five large-scale sculptures by Mark di Suvero and had them installed in the south fields, initiating a rotating display of the artist’s work at Storm King. In 1977, Stern recruited the first non-family Trustees: Cynthia Hazen Polsky and the late J. Carter Brown, former Director of the National Gallery. Stern was instrumental in introducing the Art Center’s native grasses program, which supports endemic wildlife, limits the growth of invasive species, and enriches the landscape with a rich mosaic of colors and textures. As a devoted lover of music and poetry, Stern expanded programming of both at Storm King via more public programs and performances, which continue today, in part through the H. Peter Stern Music Series. Stern’s son, John P. Stern, succeeded his father as President of Storm King in 2008.
In addition to his contributions to Storm King, Peter Stern led the Ralph E. Ogden Foundation for more than thirty years, and served on the boards of several organizations, including World Monuments Fund, International Rescue Committee, Pattern for Progress, Black Rock Forest Consortium and Vassar College. As Vice Chairman of the World Monuments Fund from 1972 until 2011, Stern’s passion to preserve cultural landmarks was manifested in many projects around the world. He made possible restorative projects to the organ and architecture of the Church of Santa Maria del Giglio in Venice, an achievement recognized with an Order of Merit from the Italian Government. He was the first supporter for the conservation of Constantin Brancusi’s Endless Column in Romania, and he campaigned for the preservation of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. In 1999, Stern received the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal, honoring individuals who have made our world a better place.
Mr. Stern said that his favorite work at Storm King was Mr. Noguchi’s Momo Taro, a 40-ton granite sculpture that hugs the earth and sits on a specially landscaped hill.
“Noguchi says there are two ways of proceeding as a sculptor,” he told Harvard Magazine. “One is to plan what you’re going to do and then do it. The other is to create, and then see what you have done. Noguchi puts himself in the second category as an artist, and I’d say that’s the way we have created the art center and I have lived my life.”