Visionary breeder and art collector Daniel Wolf dies at Ridgway

Over the past few weeks, Daniel Wolf has taken the time to help his eldest daughter with a new project.

He helped India shovel frozen earth buried under the snow, dig up peony rhizomes and plant them in her newly built greenhouse.

It was not uncommon for him to take an interest in his daughters’ passions, spending time with India and Rachel outdoors. Since the family returned home to overcome the pandemic, they have spent more time together than ever.

Although Wolf and his wife, Maya Lin, prepared to feel like empty nests, they experienced the opposite. Now the family is grateful for the closeness, being left alone in their forest house.

This spring Indian peonies will bloom, but Wolf won’t be around to admire them. He died on January 25, after a massive heart attack at his home. He was 65 years old.

Wolf was loved by his family and friends for being a dedicated, caring and genuine person interested in their passions as well as his own. He was best known for being a visionary art dealer and collector of many things – from photography to pottery and minerals – and for helping to preserve the collections for posterity.

He began by selling photographs on the streets outside the Metropolitan Museum, and eventually assembled collections now housed in places such as the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Denver Art Museum.

But here at his home near Ridgway, Wolf was someone who enjoyed hunting chanterelles in the forest, going on horseback rides under awnings of aspen leaves in the fall, hikes to alpine lakes. ice blue.

He admired beauty in everything from photography and art to the natural world and appreciated the little things. “Nothing made him happier than a really good tomato,” India said.

Wolf was known to befriend many different people, from breeders to curators of art museums, and was able to navigate opposing worlds. From a 4-H cattle auction to a cocktail party in New York City, he was in his element, but his family said he was most at home on his beloved ranch at the foot of Mount Sneffels.

He had a “galaxy of friends,” Lin said, and used to keep in touch with people from all walks of life.

Wolf had a reputation for being down to earth and unpretentious, and many people who met him were unaware that he was responsible for creating some of the most notable art and photography collections in the world. world.

He once sat on a sidewalk outside a children’s clothing store on a trip to Florida. Her youngest daughter, Rachel, remembers a passer-by handing change to her father, assuming from his outfit that he was homeless or out of luck. He just put on his glasses and surveyed the room, and loved telling the story for years.

“He was so comfortable with himself and it was super contagious,” Rachel said.

Wolf valued his privacy and appreciated a simpler lifestyle where he limited his use of technology. Rachel remembers driving for about 30 minutes to Colona from the house so that her father’s flip phone was received and he could check his messages. We were far from the hustle and bustle of New York, where he rubbed shoulders with the highest echelons of society.

“He needed both worlds,” Rachel said. “It was just in his blood to know how to live in these two places.”

Local geologist Robert Stoufer met Wolf in the mid-1980s, when he had a store across from Ouray Town Hall. He was carrying a selection of minerals in addition to his sand art bottles, and it wasn’t long before Daniel discovered Stoufer’s quartz crystal collections and started purchasing them for his collection.

Wolf fell in love, acquiring magnificent specimens of some of the most notable finds, including a majority of the BK “Burger King” pocket crystals discovered by Benjy Kuehling, former owner of the Columbine Mineral Shop, who also became a friend.

In 1990, Stoufer had discovered a large pocket of quartz near the amphitheater, the KD pocket, and Wolf purchased much of the find. They became good friends, and Wolf accompanied Stoufer on his collecting trips and eventually gave in to his suggestion to visit the Tucson Gems and Minerals Show, which has become one of Wolf’s favorite events.

Eventually, he filled cupboards and drawers with specimens from around the world. As recently as last week, Wolf called Stoufer and asked if he was aware of any new quartz finds. He’s going to miss those phone calls.

Stoufer said he had always admired the Wolf family’s dedication to conserving land purchased in agricultural production, preserving not only the land but also their historical purpose.

“They bought these properties but they always continued to operate them like cattle ranches,” he said. “They never split. We were very lucky to have owners like them.

“We don’t have a development plan,” said Wolf’s younger brother Mathew. “Just to keep the beauty and keep it the way it is.”

Stoufer also admired Wolf’s dedication to his family – to his wife and daughters, in particular. “He really liked these girls,” he said. “And I don’t know how he managed to trick Maya, but it was a very good thing for him to do so.”

The couple met at a dinner party in New York City in 1996 and married the same year after becoming engaged on a pack trip to the San Juan. They survived sleet, snow, lightning, got lost and sought refuge in a horse trailer with only a few sticks of cheese for food. Maya laughed hysterically as they stood in the dung heap and considered it an adventure. He proposed in the mountains and she accepted.

When the couple got married, Wolf had already built a house near Ridgway, designed by Italian architect Ettore Sottsass, one of only three in the United States. The family had started to acquire property in the area, including land previously owned by rancher Marie Scott.

The distinctive, playful and vibrant home was something Wolf brought to their wedding, a tasteful contrast to the minimalism of his new bride. The exterior of the house is geometric, with sharp angles and vibrant colors, and was meant to give the impression of floating shapes when viewed from a distance.

Lin, who is best known for designing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, tends to prefer a simple, clean design. “The irony is that I’m a minimalist – he’s a maximalist,” she said.

In an interview with the New York Times in 1998, Wolf described the contrast between their tastes and styles. “I am excessively this, and she is excessively that,” he said. “We love each other for it, but we are each inherently that. “

Although the house is “the complete opposite” of what she would have designed, it is a work of art, and it is something that the family cherishes now, above all, she said. “This house is Daniel. “

He embraced his Western roots, being born in Cheyenne to Joyce and Erving Wolf, who were art collectors and oil and gas pioneers. They created the Wolf Land Company, which later became the Inexco Oil Company.

After moving to New York, the family vacationed in Aspen regularly until the late 1970s. On a trip, Mathew remembers driving through town with his father when an Egg McMuffin container came in. walked past them in the street.

“It’s time to get out of here,” Erv told him.

The family decided to explore other less spoiled areas of Colorado and found Ridgway on the way to Telluride. After a first ranch purchase on Specie Mesa in 1982, they continued to purchase land throughout the county, and currently Wolf Land and Cattle Co. owns over 14,000 acres in San Miguel and Ouray counties.

The land has become another collector’s item for Wolf, something to keep safe and to admire. “It was really my brother who had the passion to keep acquiring pieces of land even though they weren’t contiguous,” said Mathew. “He just saw such beauty in the area that he had to acquire it and be a part of it.”

Wolf loved Ridgway, a town that only recently received its first and only red light on the freeway, a town where cattle lines still stop traffic in the spring and fall when ranchers move cattle to the grazing in the high countries or towards the pasture, a town without all the fast food restaurants behind the wheel. He liked the authenticity of the place, a city that hadn’t been ruined and “kind of protected his little town,” Lin said.

Ouray County was a place where the family could lead a relaxed and normal life, where their daughter could if she wanted to serve table at the local pizzeria, where they could ride horses during the Labor Day parade.

Before the pandemic, the family tended to use the ranch seasonally and spent most of their time in New York City. But when it became a hotspot for COVID-19, with field hospitals bivouacked in Central Park, the family retreated to the ranch. They enjoyed each other’s company and the peace of their home in the woods, where Wolf was buried.

“I think it was kind of a nice way to end his life, to be surrounded by his wife and daughters,” said Mathew. “He could have been in New York or Panama, and he chose the ranch.”

“They all picked the ranch, which says a lot. “

We believe vital information must be seen by those affected, whether it is a public health crisis, investigative reporting or the empowerment of lawmakers. This report depends on supporting readers like you.

Norma D. Ross