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The Arts > Art

In the red

The Adjaye building’s on hold thanks to the recession, but Linda Pace’s legacy hasn’t faded

Alicia K. Ramirez
Linda Pace Foundation Director Rick Moore outside the foundation’s offices with sculptures by Daniel J. Martinez
Mark Greenberg
The late Linda Pace in 2005

 

Famed British architect David Adjaye’s preliminary design for the collection of the late San Antonio art patron Linda Pace features cantilevered skylights above four spacious galleries. Designated for Camp Street in a spot currently occupied by an old warehouse, the building will be clad in red, the signature color for Pace, who once dreamed of an idyllic “ruby city” and named the book about her creation of Artpace’s internationally respected artist-residency program Dreaming Red.

But what promises to be one of San Antonio’s most architecturally significant buildings is in “pause mode,” said Rick Moore, director of the Linda Pace Foundation. Last year’s economic meltdown caused the foundation’s assets (which peaked at an estimated $75 million) to decline by a third, he said, putting plans for the collection on hold, but the foundation’s annual $1 million support of Artpace’s operating budget is assured.

“The building is still a high priority, but, like everyone else, we’re waiting to see what happens next to the stock market,” Moore said. “However, we’re pleased to say it hasn’t impacted our support for Artpace. We’re determined to carry out Linda’s plans for her collection and Artpace.”

Adjaye, whose first U.S. commission was the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, was selected last fall to lead the team of architects who are designing the $500-million Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. An exhibition of his designs, including the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway, was featured last fall at Artpace. He’s also known for creating spare, geometric houses for artists such as Chris Ofili and Olafur Eliasson, and celebrity clients including fashion designer Alexander McQueen and actor Ewan McGregor.

“Linda Pace’s collection is incredibly diverse, including sculpture and small-scale works on paper. Therefore we have created a series of spaces to accommodate these varying scales and to give a specific experience to viewing the collection,” Adjaye wrote in an email.

An unusual aspect of the design is an outdoor viewing area where visitors will be able to watch videos screening inside the building. “At the entrance we have designed a flexible, welcoming space, but it’s also an area where work can be presented informally,” Adjaye wrote. “The video viewing space is not just a traditional black box. Here instead, you can project through the large window in order to view work outside. The window connects the space directly to the landscape but of course, can be closed off to turn the room into a more conventional space for moving image work.”

Adjaye plans to use cement infused with red pigment to coat what is tentatively being called the Linda Pace Exhibition Space — she didn’t want it called a “museum.” Pace was introduced to Adjaye by the British artist Isaac Julien, an Artpace resident who became a good friend of Pace before she died of cancer in 2007. Julien has created a memorial image to Pace that also features the same distinctive hue of red, Moore said.

“But Adjaye has never seen Julien’s piece,” Moore said. “And when I saw how close the red was, it just gave me goosebumps. I think it shows how Linda’s message still continues to influence the people who knew her.”

The only drawback to the Pace Foundation’s plans may be the location of the proposed exhibit space for her collection, says former Artpace board member Guillermo Nicolas. Sited about a block from the main thoroughfare of North Flores Street, the Adjaye building will overlook a trash-strewn creek and a parking lot.

Pace, perhaps thinking of the Menil Collection in Houston, did not want the building to be ostentatious, but to fit comfortably within a natural, urban setting. Artpace resident Teresita Fernandez, who designed the adjacent CHRISpark, will mostly likely be asked to create the landscaping for the exhibition space.

“Linda’s development of that area had turned an eyesore into an asset,” Nicolas said. “But the building will be kind of hidden. Visitors will have to know where to look for it. Linda liked to tackle difficult projects, and I think the foundation wants to respect her wishes. It will be interesting to see how the neighborhood develops around what Linda has built and planned.”

By far the city’s most influential patron of contemporary art, Pace already had planned to make Artpace more self-sufficient before she learned she had cancer. To overcome the public perception that she was the sole supporter of Artpace, she set up the Pace Foundation as a separate entity and encouraged Artpace to seek out individual, corporate, and other foundation support.

Artpace Director Matthew Drutt said he and his staff had begun to develop “worst-case” scenarios long before the stock-market collapse — which turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

“We knew we might lose our founder, so we had already begun making disaster plans, including total loss of support from the foundation,” Drutt said. “Fortunately, that hasn’t been the case and we’re doing fine. We went through a rigorous planning process and learned a lot about ourselves. Since we don’t have an endowment, we knew we had to have the ability to raise the money we needed to operate.” This year, Artpace received one of the largest National Endowment for the Arts grants in Texas — $75,000 — and in January, the organization unveiled its first membership program, which offers VIP previews and special events in exchange for an annual donation, much like a museum membership.

“We have good support from the city and other foundations, so we’re feeling extremely fortunate,” Drutt added. “But we have the same concerns as everyone else about what direction the economy is going to take next.”

Artpace is a non-collecting institution, but Pace was perhaps the city’s most prolific collector of contemporary art. During her lifetime, she amassed more than 500 pieces valued at more than $15 million, including works by Willem de Kooning, Richard Tuttle, and Rachel Whiteread. She also collected pieces by many of the resident artists at Artpace, where she had first pick of the works created in the program. The foundation loaned more than 110 pieces from Pace’s collection in 2008, including works to London’s Tate, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark.

“It’s amazing how well her collection is known throughout the museum world,” Moore said. “We try to accommodate each request for a loan, but we really don’t have any formal program for lending the works. Curators know what’s in the collection, and they think it contains significant works by the artists she collected.”

Another 11 works, including pieces by San Antonio artists Rick Hunter, Chuck Ramirez, Trish Simonite, and Penelope Speier, are on loan to the Dream Center in the Bexar County Family Justice Center, and a sculpture by Dario Robleto was lent to the McNay Art Museum.

Artist Kelly O’Connor, who recently showed her dark, Disney-inspired collages at the Joan Grona Gallery, oversees the Pace Collection. She rotates pieces through the foundation offices, which are located in Pace’s former studio at 112 W. Rische St. Originally a 1940s-era auto paint shop with a dirt floor, the studio, which was completed only six months before Pace’s death, was designed by award-winning San Antonio architect Jim Poteet, who also led the design team that converted the studio into the clean-lined, light-filled offices.

The offices are tucked behind the lushly landscaped CHRISpark, which Pace built as a memorial to her son, and which the foundation maintains at an annual cost of $150,000. Across the street are the Camp Street Lofts — which Pace developed in the old Tobin aerial map company offices — where part of her collection is displayed in a suite of all-white rooms on the sixth floor.

“I like to work with different themes for different parts of the offices,” O’Connor said. “Her collection is probably too edgy for a lot of businesses, but it clearly reflects her commitment to cutting-edge contemporary art.”

While the collection is not open to the public, O’Connor said anyone interested can make an appointment for a tour.

O’Connor’s office has a ceramic theme, including a watercolor collage by British ceramicist Grayson Perry depicting actress Sarah Jessica Parker stretched out in a coffin, and a green bowl decorated with burning matches and cigarettes by San Antonian Alex de Leon. Food-related pieces, such as Surasi Kusolwong’s large photograph of a floating market and Paul Housley’s “Apple Record,” hang in the break nook.

Nathan Carter created a memorial that reads “Dear Linda Pace” spelled out in disproportionate blue and red letters. Dorothy Cross is represented by two arms cast in silver. Tracey Emin scrawled her name graffiti-style across yellow monoprints. Among the well-known modern artists in Pace’s collection is an abstract oil painting by Hans Hofmann and a print by Joan Miró that came from Pace’s mother, Margaret Pace Willson, an influential artist and arts philanthropist in her own right. One of the newest pieces to join the collection is Do-Ho Suh’s “Karma,” which features a walking man with a spine of small figures emerging from his back.

Before her death, Pace commissioned two public works by Los Angeles artist Daniel J. Martinez which are installed outside of the offices. At the CHRISpark entrance is a statue of Black Panthers Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, carved in the same white Italian Carrera marble used by Michelangelo. Martinez also created a text piece for the wall facing North Flores street that reads: “Beauty … it rubs against one’s tongue / it hangs there hurting one / insisting on its own existence /
finally it gets so one cannot stand the pain / then one must have beauty extracted.”

The foundation plans to celebrate Pace’s April birthday each year by commissioning a public art piece. This spring, Los Angeles artist Edgar Arceneaux presented his video performance piece, “Old Man Hill,” at the old Mission Drive-In Theater on Roosevelt Avenue. A response to the 1995 massacre of Bosnian Muslims in Sarajevo, “Old Man Hill” included an eight-minute film shot in the ruins of Sarajevo and the release of metallic balloons that spelled out “Old Man Hill” in Bosnian, recalling the release of red balloons at Pace’s funeral in CHRISpark.

“Storms were threatening, but the weather held, and it was perfect in every way,” Moore said. “They showed the film at sunset, and it was something to see the balloons across the night sky. People were moved. I really didn’t expect to have such an emotional response to the piece. Linda used to celebrate her mother’s birthday by giving a present of art to the San Antonio Museum of Art, so we want to continue the tradition.”

Moore says the event also called attention to the plight of the historic Drive-In, which is being demolished to make way for a library complex. “I think they may want to preserve one of the screens for the library to show outdoor movies.”

Next year, a new public artwork by San Antonio artist Jesse Amado will be unveiled at the San Antonio Central Library to celebrate Pace’s birthday, said Guillermo Nicolas, who has also served on the board of the San Antonio Library Foundation.

Amado, who has been dividing his time between San Antonio and New York, said he is still in the conceptual phase. He has used text to moving effect in his previous work, such as his rack of sideways silver letters on view at the Pace Foundation that spell out, “I think everybody should be a machine.”

“I would rather create something especially for the site,” Amado said. “The exchange between San Antonio and the international art world that Artpace has brought about has changed the city and made it possible for artists to have significant careers here. Through Artpace, [Pace] gave artists a chance to experiment and to somehow be freed from the art market.”

Nicolas says Linda’s legacy is being well-served by the Pace Foundation.

“She was a great patron because she showed other people in San Antonio that you had to step up to the table and make things happen if you want San Antonio to be a beautiful and special place,” Nicolas said. “She had the money to put Artpace in New York or Aspen, but she chose San Antonio because she believed in the city and the importance of giving back.

“Putting her collection here will probably have the same impact for San Antonio as the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas.”

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