Stuart Spence

Stuart Spence
March 18, 1938 — May 29, 2021

Dr. Stuart Spence, inventor and collector of contemporary art, died of pneumonia May 29, 2021.

Stuart was born March 18, 1938, in Belfast, Northern Ireland to Thomas Everard Spence and Kathleen Forbes Morehouse. He was a Winchester Scholar and attended Balliol College at Oxford where his crew won Oxford’s prestigious “Head of the River” trophy at the Torpids rowing race in 1959. Stuart earned his PhD on high temperature superconductors at Stanford in 1967 via a Fulbright travel scholarship.

At a social event in Palo Alto, Stuart met Dr. Judith Vida and the two were married in December 1971. As a couple they found contemporary art compelling, and began to acquire artworks based on shared experiences and friendships with artists, all deeply meaningful to them.

Stuart created the first microprocessor controlled printer in the 1970s and received dozens of patents for his work on 3D printing in the 1980s. He was known to say that his best contribution to 3D printing was the demonstration of the 3D printed automotive distributor cap, which opened the eyes of reluctant car manufacturers to the value of rapid prototyping.

Over time Stuart decided to focus on his passion for art and he left the high-tech world. Stuart was instrumental in bringing about the exhibit Kustom Kulture in 1988 at Laguna Art Museum alongside Bolton Colburn and Craig Stecyk. Stuart and Judy were considered among the world’s top art collectors by ARTnews and Art and Antiques magazines in the 1990s. Most recently, Stuart and Judy formalized their gift to the Japanese American National Museum of the monumental work Postcards From Camp by Japanese American artist Ben Sakoguchi.

Stuart was a complex person who deeply loved non-traditional art and cared about making the world a more just place. You can read the full obituary on his website, spence.net. Donations can be made in his name to the Museum of Jurassic Technology or ACLU.

Stuart Spence is survived by his wife, Dr. Judith Vida-Spence, two sons, Theodore and Jonathan, Ted’s spouse Jenny, and his granddaughter Elizabeth Spence, with whom he loved to talk about birds.