I just returned from San Francisco, and let me tell you, I am jealous - very jealous. I went there for the opening of the new exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art... In an unprecedented act of generosity, Doris and the late Don Fisher, renowned collectors of contemporary art, gave their outstanding collection to SFMOMA, and in celebration of this occasion, the museum mounted a superb exhibition called Calder to Warhol. There are only 160 works on display - merely the tip of the iceberg, considering that the whole collection consists of 1100 artworks.
Occupying two museum floors as well as the rooftop garden, the exhibition - imaginatively installed by chief curator Gary Garrels - starts with a generous display of 10 sculptures by Alexander Calder, the couple's favorite artist; they have 45 of his works. And the show continues with a jaw-dropping, in-depth presentation of works by other major artists. On display are 16 of their 21 Warhols, nine of 23 Richters, and ten of their 24 Sol LeWitts, plus a roomful each of monumental works by Chuck Close, Anselm Kiefer, Cy Twombly, and Joan Mitchell, just to name a few.
Staying conveniently in a hotel near the museum, I saw the exhibition four times in two days, eager to fully absorb and digest the richness and variety of what it has to offer. And through all that, I felt distinct pangs of jealousy. You see, initially Don and Doris Fisher were planning to open their own museum in the Presidio, but when these plans fell through, they formed a partnership with SFMOMA and contributed financially to its upcoming expansion. As a result, in a few short years, the museum will be able to permanently display a large portion of the Fisher collection. Meanwhile, here in Los Angeles, we experienced short-lived excitement preceding the grand opening of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum at LACMA. It was supposed to permanently house the huge collection assembled by our major philanthropist, Eli Broad, but in the eleventh hour, the mercurial billionaire changed his mind, so what we got in the end is just a pavilion bearing his name but void of his collection.
And if that's not enough to make you jealous, how about this latest development on the San Francisco art front? Just below the Bay Bridge, in a smartly converted warehouse with its 28,000 square feet of exhibition space, the public is invited (free of charge) to enjoy an astonishing display of photographs assembled by investment banker and collector Andy Pilara.
It is hands-down the most dramatic and ambitious presentation of photography I've ever seen, either here or abroad. And though in LA we are lucky to have the recently built Annenberg Space for Photography, it cannot compare to the scale and verve of the Pilara Foundation exhibition. Just check out the photos at KCRW.com/ArtTalk, and let me know if you think, like I do, that in the ongoing rivalry between our two great cities, the latest round has been won by San Francisco.
Calder to Warhol: Introducing the Fisher Collection
On view at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art through September 19
Banner image: The Warhol room in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s new exhibition, Calder to Warhol