Bill Stern May 13, 1941-March 7, 2020

Bill Stern at the Museum of California Design exhibition "Kids' Stuff: California Designs for Children". February, 2020. Palm Springs

We are sad to report that William B. Stern, the founder and executive director of the Museum of California Design died peacefully at his home in Los Angeles on Saturday, March 7. Bill was born on May 13, 1941. He worked at Warner Bros. Studios for many years, and as a restaurant critic for LA Weekly. His passion for collecting California pottery led him to become an author, curator, and lecturer on California design.
His exhibitions for the Museum include "California Pottery: From Missions to Modernism" at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Autry Museum in Los Angeles; "Starring William Haines" at the Pacific Design Center and the Palm Springs Convention Center; "California's Designing Women 1896-1986" at the Autry National Center; "Mid-Century Mandarin: The Clay Canvases of Tyrus Yu Wong at the Craft and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles; "Frank Gehry: 40 Years of Product Design 1972-2015," at JFChen@1135, and "A Survey of Eames Design From a Splint to a Chaise" at the Entenza House in Pacific Palisades in 2010. Beginning in 2007, Bill curated a number of very popular mini-exhibitions at the Palm Springs Convention Center in conjunction with Palm Springs Modernism Week; "The Classic Modernism of Architectural Pottery" in 2007; "Jerome and Evelyn Ackerman: Designs for Modern Living" in 2009; "Plastics from Paradise: California Modernizes the American Lifestyle" in 2017, "Collecting California Design" in 2019, and "Kids' Stuff, California Designs for Children" in 2020. He was Consulting Curator for LACMA's exhibition "California Design 1930-1965: Living in a Modern Way." Among Bill's publications are the books "California Pottery: From Missions to Modernism," and the exhibition catalog "California's Designing Women 1896-1986," as well as the essays "Edith Heath: Artist of the Everyday" in "Heath Ceramics: The Complexity of Simplicity," and "War and Peace: Unexpected Dividends" in the catalog of LACMA's "California Design 1930-1965: Living in a Modern Way." Bill lectured on California's contribution to American commercial design at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the University of Southern California, the Japanese American National Museum, the Orange County Museum of Art, the Symposium of the American Ceramics Circle, the Getty Center, and elsewhere. We will miss Bill and his leadership of the Museum.

3 Responses

  1. […] whose death was confirmed by the museum’s chief financial officer, Michael Michaud, died in his sleep of unknown causes in […]
  2. […] death has been confirmed by the museum’s chief financial officer, Michael Michaud, died Saturday in his sleep of […]
  3. I am really saddened to learn of the passing of Bill Stern. I have known and worked with him off and on for many years. If I can be helpful in any way please contact me. Jack Chipman 310.569.5843
  4. Shocked, saddened, and surprised! We just visited before the holidays and as a fellow pottery historian we always found much to talk about and enjoyed sharing our research. Will there be a memorial? If I can help in any way, let me know. Please keep me informed. Steve Soukup 818.781.9262.
  5. Bill and I were students at the University of Alaska in the early 1960s. Could that be pushing sixty years ago? I'm so pleased to learn of his distinguished career. I'm confident that he is journeying to a destination with good friends and superb design.