Pace Foundation plans for new San Antonio museum designed by British architect David Adjaye

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. To be located on 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 artists’ residency program “Dreaming Red.”

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

“We’re waiting for the market to rebound,” Moore said. “The building is still a high priority, but, like everyone else, we’re waiting to see what happens next to the stock market. 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 building in the United States was the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, was selected last fall to lead a team of architects designing the $500 million Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C.

An exhibit 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 as well as celebrity clients such as Alexander McQueen, the fashion designer, and Ewan McGregor, the actor.

Computer modeling was used to determine the positioning of the skylights in Adjaye’s design for the Pace Collection.

“The angle of the skylights is the outcome of research we conducted using modeling software to plot how sunlight works against the building throughout the day,” Adjaye wrote in an e-mail. “Inside the space, light takes on different colors as it’s affected by the different orientation – north, south, east and west – of the space. Each (of the four galleries) has its own unique color and quality of light.

“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 plans to use cement infused with red pigment to coat the home of 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, a resident artist at Artpace who became a good friend of the art patron 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 goose bumps. I think it shows how Linda’s message still continues to influence the people who knew her.”

Julien’s large triptych, “After Paradise,” featuring topical flowers and the silhouette of a man standing in the ocean, hangs in Moore’s office at the Pace Foundation. His memorial to Pace, “True South,” is also on view.

By far the city’s most influential patron of contemporary art, Pace already had made plans 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 foundation as a separate entity, encouraging Artpace to seek out individual, corporate and foundation support.

Matthew Drutt, Artpace director, said he and his staff had already begun to make “worst case” predictions 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, we received one of the largest National Endowment for the Arts grants in Texas — $75,000. Our membership is growing, although since we started at zero, there’s no where to go but up. We have good support from the city and other foundations, so we’re feeling extremely fortunate. But we have the same concerns as everyone else about what direction the economy is going to take next.”

While Artpace is a non-collecting institution, Pace was perhaps the city’s most prolific collector of contemporary art. During her lifetime, she amassed a collection of more than 500 pieces valued at more than $15 million, including artists such as Willem de Kooning, Richard Tuttle and Rachel Whitread. She collected works by many of the resident artists at Artpace. The foundation loaned more than 110 pieces from Pace’s collection in 2008, including works to the Tate Museum in London, the Brooklyn Museum in New York 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 currently 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 offices of the foundation, 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 San Antonio architect Jim Poteet, who also led the design team that converted the studio into the clean-lined, light-filled offices. Last January, Poteet’s work won an Annual Interiors Award for outstanding small office design from the trade magazine Contract.

The offices are tucked behind CHRISpark, which Pace built as a memorial to her son. The lushly landscaped park was designed by the artist Teresita Fernandez, whose wall relief of multicolored glass cubes is in the foundation’s conference room. The foundation is also responsible for taking care of the park, which costs about $150,000 a year to maintain, Moore said. The jewel-like park is across the street from the Camp Street Lofts, which Pace developed in what used to be an office building occupied by the Tobin aerial map company. The collection is also displayed in her former sixth floor loft, which features all-white walls, ceilings and floors.

“We have several pieces that came from her homes in New York and Aspen,” O’Connor said. “Linda had first choice of the works made by the Artpace resident artists. The foundation gives me free range to show what I want from her collection. I like to work with different themes for different parts of the offices. 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 always open to the public, O’Connor said anyone interested can make an appointment for a tour.

Her office has a ceramic theme, including a watercolor collage by British ceramist Grayson Perry depicting actress Sarah Jessica Parker stretched out in a coffin, along with 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 Houseley’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 older, well-known artists is an abstract oil painting by Hans Hofmann and a print by Joan Miro that comes from Pace’s mother’s collection. One of the newest pieces to join the collection is Do-Ho Suh’s “Karma,” which features a walking man with small figures emerging from his back that resemble a human spine.

Before her death, Pace commissioned two public works by Los Angeles artist Daniel J. Martinez that are on the outside of the building. At the CHRISpark entrance is a pair of Black Panthers, Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, carved in the same white Italian Carrera marble that Michelangelo used.

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 its own existence finally it gets so one cannot stand the pain then one must have beauty extracted.”

Celebrating Linda Pace’s April birthday by commissioning a public art piece is going to be an annual event for the foundation. On April 19, Los Angeles artist Edgar Arceneaux presented his video performance piece, “Old Man Hill,” at the old Mission Drive-In Theater on Roosevelt Avenue, which is currently being demolished to make room for an office/retail complex and a new branch library. A response to the 1995 massacre of Bosnian Muslims in Sarajevo, “Old Man Hill” involved an 8-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 the San Antonio Museum of Art, so we want to continue the tradition. It also helped draw attention to the plans for the Mission Drive-In. Now, I think they may want to preserve one of the screens for the library to show outdoor movies.”

Next year, a new public art piece by San Antonio artist Jesse Amado will be unveiled at the San Antonio Central Library to celebrate Pace’s birthday, said Guillermo Nichols, who has served on the boards of both Artpace and the San Antonio Library Foundation.

“The celebration at the Mission Drive-In was magical; Linda would have loved it,” Nichols said. “A lot of people are opposed to the idea of keeping a screen, but I think Arceneaux’s film showed how wonderful it could be. 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. 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. She also thought it was important to bring world-class architecture to San Antonio.”

Nichols said the library foundation is excited to have the chance to work with Amado, who was among the first resident artists selected by Artpace. At the Central Library, Amado’s work will join Dale Chihuly’s hanging glass sculpture, a bronze bull by Fernando Botero and a large mural by San Antonio artist Jessie Trevino.

Amado, who has been dividing his time between San Antonio and New York, said he is still in the conceptual phrase of deciding what to do. He has used text intelligently in his previous work, however, such as his rack of sideways silver letters on view at the Pace Foundation that spell out, “I think everybody should be a machine.” He’s also used a letter embosser to write lines from favorite movies on gummed tape that he glued to geometric wall pieces, including some in the Spurs offices at the AT&T Center.

“I don’t have anything concrete yet,” Amado said. “A lot of stuff is floating around in my head. I think the challenge of the library is not to just plop something down. I would rather create something especially for the site. I was honored when they asked me to do the project, and I think it’s a good way to honor Linda. Her impact on the San Antonio art community was immense, and it is continuing in every respect. 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, she gave artists a chance to experiment and to somehow be freed from the art market. Her legacy will be long lasting.”

The only drawback to the Pace Foundation’s plans may be the location of the proposed exhibit space for her collection, Nichols said. 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.

“Linda’s development of that area had turned an eyesore into an asset,” Nichols 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.”

It’s likely that Fernandez will be commissioned to landscape the grounds around the collection to complement her design for CHRISpark. Pace, probably thinking of the Menil Collection in Houston, did not want the building to be ostentatious, but to fit comfortably within a natural, urban setting. One unusual aspect is that an outdoor viewing area is being planned so that people can watch videos being played 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. The project is at very early stages throughout, but we are seeking to find the most environmentally responsible solutions.”

While Linda Pace is gone, her dreams live on.

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