Thursday, August 5, 2010

Meet the Fishers

Okay, that title is a really bad pun. I didn't even see the movie, so I don't actually have the right to make fun of it.

The Fishers were Donald and Doris, founders of The Gap. Doris is still living, but Donald passed away in 2009, two days after the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) announced an agreement to house the Fishers' vast collection of contemporary art. (Wikipedia, citing Forbes sans footnote, claims that DF's worth was estimated at $3.3 billion, if you're looking to put some numbers around "vast.") This agreement came about after an attempt to build an independent museum to house the collection, in San Francisco's Presidio, ran aground on the shoals of community hostility to developing the park (a former Army base, until 1994).

I was never much of a Gap shopper myself, despite the fact that Berkeley had one at the foot of Telegraph Avenue for many years. The windows often caught the fancy of rioters. The space is a Walgreens now.

The Fisher family came to my attention in the early oughts, when they bought 350 redwood-forested square miles in Mendocino County and proceeded to carry forward the prior owner's clear-cutting plans. The issue was more complicated than that, natch. A history is maintained on the not-so-objective web site, which in addition to its own press releases includes articles from differently-invested parties, such as Wall Street Journal and San Francisco Chronicle reporters.

But that's not what I'm here to tell you.

Last weekend, I visited SFMOMA to see the first, introductory exhibition of 160 of the 1,100 works from the Fisher collection that will be held in "a trust, administered in collaboration with SFMOMA, to oversee the care of their collection at the museum for a minimum of 25 years" (from SFMOMA's press release of 25 Sept 2009). The exhibition is titled Calder to Warhol: Introducing the Fisher Collection. If you live in the Bay Area, or are out to visit before the show closes on 19 September, get thee to Third Street.

Seriously, the show is ravishing, not to be missed, and promises that the expansion whose proximate purpose is to accommodate the Fisher Collection, is going to vault SFMOMA to heights we west coast locals have only dreamed of.

I've only posted a couple of the many photos we took of the exhibit. The Calder mobile hanging in the entrance atrium is shown from the "I could be a stegosaurus on exhibit in a Natural History Museum" angle, which you too can view if you take the stairs to the third floor. Anselm Kiefer's powerful ridicule (cf. warships in bathtub) of Nazi plans to invade the U.K. by sea in WWII, Unternehmen Seelow (Operation Sea Lion) is one of five enormous Kiefer canvases in the show, not to mention Meloncholia, a military plane sculpted from lead that once crowned the cathedral in Köln.

Weirdly hypnotic, patterned canvases by Anges Martin (especially Night Sea); steel sculpture by Richard Serra; a magnificent canvas by Lee Krassner (Polar Stampede); a gorgeous graffiti-on-green canvas by Cy Twombly (Note I); many many Calder mobiles and a stabile in the roof garden; a chillingly beautiful Mao created by Andy Warhol are only a few of the highlights ... it's a show that's not to be missed, 160 amuse-bouches for the ages as San Francisco anticipates more of the Fisher Collection to come at SFMOMA.

1 comment:

  1. This exhibit is indeed quite amazing. It has both breadth and depth, the museum it attached to (SFMOMA) doesn't possess at the moment. It is very gratifying to know that this collection is to stay within San Francisco for a long while, after the almost public lynching of the Fishers for daring to propose a museum in the "sacred" Presidio.

    It is a wonderful show and one should not miss it.

    Matthew Felix Sun