^ Sounds familiar.
New Museum in the Presidio
Donald Fisher, founder of Gap, offers to build a museum in the Presidio to house his art collection
Cecilia M. Vega, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
(08-07) 20:50 PDT -- Gap founder Donald Fisher, one of the world's leading contemporary art collectors and a powerful force in local politics, has offered to build a sprawling museum in the Presidio to showcase his vast collection, which until now has largely been hidden away in his company's San Francisco headquarters.
Since Fisher and his wife, Doris, founded Gap Inc. in 1969, they have amassed what is widely considered to be among the most extensive private collections of 20th and 21st century art. Yet with the exception of pieces that are occasionally loaned to museums, much of what they own has never been seen by people outside the art world.
The Fishers, whose retail empire brings in about $16 billion a year, hope to build a 100,000-square-foot museum with 55,000 square feet of gallery space -- 5,000 more square feet than at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art -- to house their collection of more than 1,000 works.
Donald Fisher, 78, will announce his plan to build the Contemporary Art Museum of the Presidio today at a news conference in the national park. The governing board that oversees park development would have to approve the plan, but it seems to have widespread support.
"I'm concerned about what happens to the collection," Fisher said in an interview this week in his Gap office, which is filled with works by such modern art icons as Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder and Roy Lichtenstein. "I don't want to turn around and sell it, and I don't want it to be sold when I pass away. I'd like it to be seen."
The Fishers have purchased works from some of the world's most famous modern artists, storing it away in their homes and in two galleries at the Gap's waterfront headquarters.
The hallways leading to Fisher's office look like museums in their own right. One hallway features a series of colorful Mick Jagger portraits by Warhol, a Picasso lithograph and a wall covered in Lichtenstein pop art. Whimsical Calder mobiles float from ceilings, walls and hangers.
Art experts say it is not the size of the Fishers' collection that is most impressive, but rather the depth of what they have accumulated. The Fishers have been careful to buy works representing all phases of the careers of such artists as Ellsworth Kelly, Gerhard Richter, Anselm Kiefer, Chuck Close and Claes Oldenburg. In other cases, they purchased a single outstanding piece or several small pieces by artists of distinction such as Cy Twombly, John Chamberlain, Richard Serra, William Kentridge and Sam Taylor-Wood.
"There's no question that the collection that Don and Doris have formed is one of the best in the world," SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra said. "There's no question that it would be nearly impossible, if not impossible, to form a collection of the same artists today. The works simply aren't available."
In 1993, ARTnews magazine listed Donald Fisher as one of the world's top 10 art collectors alongside the sultan of Brunei, British composer Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and New York cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder.
"It certainly is one of the most ambitious and qualitatively successful collections that I know of, internationally speaking," said Roland Augustine, president of the Art Dealers Association of America. "The Gerhard Richter collection alone is unparalleled in our country by a single owner."
Yet Fisher and his wife have kept a low profile when it comes to their collection, allowing mainly museum groups or art insiders in to tour the headquarters' galleries. The couple pays the Gap nearly $900,000 a year for the space.
"We've kept it quite private," Donald Fisher said. "We basically are not looking for publicity. That's not our mantra, and so we've been out of sight. But in this circumstance, you can't stay out of sight forever."
Fisher hasn't maintained the same low profile in political circles, however. The Republican, who has powerful ties inside San Francisco City Hall and in the city's business community, is a regular contributor to local and national campaigns. He is involved in a high-stakes fight over parking spaces in the city that will play out on November's ballot.
The Fishers are active philanthropic donors, funding everything from charter schools to museums, with SFMOMA being a regular recipient. Donald Fisher serves as an officer on the museum's board of trustees. He donated to the city a 60-foot-tall bow-and-arrow sculpture that sits across the street from his Gap offices at the foot of the Bay Bridge.
He was also one of the original members of the Presidio Trust Board of Directors -- an appointment that required White House approval. So to him, building a museum on the sprawling 1,500-acre national park seemed like a natural fit.
The historic Main Post, the area in the park the Fishers are eyeing for their museum, must be inhabited by a major cultural institution under the Presidio Trust's plan for the former military site. A bowling alley and tennis courts located there would be torn down to make room for the museum, but Presidio officials said they will try to relocate the bowling alley.
The seven-member Presidio Trust board must approve any new development. The plan would also undergo an environmental review and public hearings. Others interested in building a cultural institution in the Main Post have until Nov. 9 to submit proposals, but early indications are that the Fishers' plan has the backing it needs.
Mayor Gavin Newsom is expected to attend Donald Fisher's news conference in the Presidio today. On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled her support in a statement that praised the couple's commitment to the city and the Presidio.
A museum celebrating the life of Walt Disney is also planned at the Main Post, as is a three-story hotel. A contemporary art museum would "really bring it to life," said Presidio Trust Executive Director Craig Middleton.
Donald Fisher, who had a hands-on role in designing his stores and the Gap's Embarcadero high-rise, will collaborate on the museum design with the New York-based firm Gluckman Mayner Architects, which designed sites such as the Whitney Museum of Art in New York and the Museo Picasso Malaga in Spain. Exactly how much the building would cost remains unknown, but insiders say the Fishers have no spending limit.
Fisher said he hopes to open the museum in about three years. The plan also includes making space for traveling exhibitions and possibly works from area high school students.
One of the first pieces the Fishers ever purchased was by abstract sculptor Barbara Hepworth. Donald Fisher says he still remembers how much they paid for every piece, but the exact value of the entire collection is unknown.
Buying art became a habit -- even an addiction, he said. The couple purchased most of the paintings without the help of a curator. They have visited museums around the world to review artists' collections to learn more about their favorite periods.
Fisher said he never imagined they would have amassed such a wold-renowned collection.
"It's the same as when I bought my first store," he said. "We never thought we'd have the number of stores we have. ... You can dream about it, but that's all it is -- a dream. You have to execute. When it came to buying art, our stock in our company was worth more money as time went along, and we could buy more art and we continued to buy."
"It's a habit," he said. "But it's an avocation as well."
Chronicle Art Critic Kenneth Baker contributed to this story.
This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle
^ Sounds familiar.
“We shape our Cities, thereafter they shape us.”
this would make my b/f very happy. one more stellar museum to visit in SF.
"what is widely considered to be among the most extensive private collections of 20th and 21st century art."
In a world where everything else is ranked, I would like to see what 'art world'ers' widely consider to be THE most extensive private collections. Are the Fishers only called such because the de Menil and Nasher collections are no longer private? What about the Rachofsky-Hoffman-Rose modern collection deeded to the Dallas Museum of Art?
A new article that makes the above comparision:Originally Posted by I45Tex
ART FOR OUR SAKE
RARE HOLDINGS: The Fisher collection ranks as one of the finest of its kind in the world
Kenneth Baker, Chronicle Art Critic
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
San Francisco's stature as a cultural destination and hub of new art scholarship will jump dramatically if Gap founders Donald and Doris Fisher get their wish to build a museum for their collection of modern and contemporary art on the Presidio grounds.
Containing more than a thousand works, the Fisher collection ranks among the finest of its kind in the world. In today's overheated art economy, its value at auction might break the billion-dollar mark. That offers a blunt idea of the gift the Fishers have offered the city.
But the money tells the less significant half of the story. The Fisher collection contains numerous things - early works by Alexander Calder, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Agnes Martin, for example - unobtainable at any price because comparable pieces reside only in museums.
Collectors around the world covet early Warhol paintings such as the Fishers' silver "Triple Elvis" (1962), "Marlon" (1963) and the pair of 1964 pictures from the "Most Wanted Men" series that Warhol based on police mug shots.
Admirers of Ellsworth Kelly's art recognize his "Gaza" (1952-56) and "Red Green" (1968) as cornerstones of all the work he has done since. The Fishers own both. They appeared at SFMOMA in a special exhibition "Ellsworth Kelly in San Francisco" in 2003.
Although many contemporary art collectors own a representative work or two by Martin, the Fishers have abstract paintings and drawings by her reaching back to 1959, before her signature style emerged. Few museums in the world, if any, can say the same.
The Fishers also own defining early works by Richard Serra, but his towering "Charlie Brown" (2000), which stands in the Gap headquarters atrium, belongs to the corporation and will not leave the building.
The Fisher collection also boasts rich holdings in the work of artists too scantily represented in America, such as sculptor Jannis Kounellis, acknowledged as an artistic giant in Europe, and British sculptors Richard Long and Antony Gormley.
Museums collecting in the same vein as the Fishers come increasingly to depend on benefactors like them to add works of historical importance to their holdings.
Several other private collections in America invite comparison with the Fishers'.
The late Raymond Nasher founded the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas to display the trove of modern sculpture he and his wife had assembled.
Emily Rauh Pulitzer, heiress of the newspaper fortune of her late husband, built a small, elegant museum in St. Louis to house their superb cache of modern and contemporary art.
The Menil Collection in Houston may offer the best comparison to the Fishers' proposal. It displays the founders' unparalleled collection of 20th century art and Medieval, Byzantine and tribal antiquities and, as the Fishers plan to do, hosts and originates traveling exhibitions that intersect with its own areas of artistic depth.
The Broad Art Foundation in Los Angeles, brainchild of Eli and Edye Broad, has formed an extensive anthology of contemporary art, but unlike the Fisher collection, it prizes scope over depth.
Perhaps the Dallas Museum of Art offers the best comparison to what the Fishers' concept promises: Several collectors collaborated in the gift to the DMA of 300 contemporary artworks of outstanding range and caliber.
Both Fishers have served on the board of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and several important pieces they own figure as "fractional gifts" to the museum, essentially a time-share arrangement that gives the donors a tax benefit and the institution access to the work. But on Tuesday, Donald Fisher said that to have given SFMOMA their collection would have burdened the museum with unbearable pressures of storage, conservation and display. The facility the Fishers propose would have more exhibition space than SFMOMA as a whole contains.
Above all, like the Menil Collection and the Pulitzer Foundation, the Fisher collection emphasizes connoisseurship without snobbery.
Where a cluster of works in the Fisher collection represents an artist such as Martin, Kelly, Chuck Close, Anselm Kiefer or Philip Guston, it lets us see an arc of thinking, traced by a series of high notes, not just a procession of style.
Where a single major work represents an artist, such as William Kentridge's animated maquette of his stage design for Mozart's "The Magic Flute," it is a work of the highest distinction.
Sitting down in a darkened space for a brief look at Kentridge's 15-minute video projection, the taciturn Donald Fisher confided something one would never expect to hear: "This is probably the piece I admire most in the whole collection."
E-mail Kenneth Baker at email@example.com.
This article appeared on page A - 3 of the San Francisco Chronicle
There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)