our new san francisco exhibition space

it was going to take an extraordinary space to replace our beautiful clementina street gallery, but that building was to be demolished to make way for a condo development and we were ready for change.  in the 12 years we were on clementina, our artists had grown as had our programmatic ambitions.  thanks to an in-depth, year-long analysis of the philosophy of our program and business, we had a clear set of intentions…

i looked at a lot of buildings over the course of nearly two years, so as soon as i saw this, i knew it was the one.

the light is extraordinary — three 80-foot bays of skylights flood the space and the entire length of the east wall of the gallery is 13-foot-high factory sash windows.

at 8,900 sq feet, it’s big enough to do large-scale installations or put on substantial solo or group exhibitions.  the volume allows me to provide each work of art the space it needs to look its best and the viewer the distance to get some perspective.

i worked with louis schump of HOK, who also designed my new york gallery, to conceptualize this project.

you enter the space through an entry sequence of hallway, stairs and exposed brick, and are surprised when you step into the sky-lit gallery.  the quality of light and sense of scale are so unexpected they make you pause.

the entry gallery is generously proportioned, but not overwhelming.   its 12 foot high walls don’t go to the ceiling, allowing you to see that the space continues beyond them.  you also have views of other galleries to both the right and the left and it’s clear that there’s something more beyond the space you’re in.   there’s a socratic aspect to it…   of not giving everything away, but drawing you  in to explore for yourself.   it’s one of the things i believe art should do and i curate with that in mind.

once you move into either of the two large galleries, none of the walls extend all of the way to the ceiling — they’re 10, 12 or 14 feet high — depending upon their function.

their partial height minimally impacts the expanse of the space and reinforces your awareness that this was once a factory.   the varying elevations also subtly animate the architecture.

the layout of the walls, too, is meant to not interfere with the elegant proportions of the building.  they frame views between galleries that allow me to develop connections between art works in the different spaces and use those views to guide the viewer.

anticipating and controlling the way viewers move through space is part of curating.  quite purposefully, there are no dead ends to this gallery —  a sequence of prospects circulates you from one artwork to the next encouraging the discovery of relationships and uncovering of meaning.

we left the shell of the building, the ceiling and the columns exactly as we found them.  they retain 90 years of patina.   that move establishes a conversation between the existing building (history) and new construction (a frame for looking at contemporary art).  it’s a metaphor for the way the gallery program refers to social, cultural and art history while exhibiting art that’s thoroughly contemporary.

we used the architecture to further exhibition strategies, in this case, exposed pilasters break up very long expanses of wall.

when were designing and building the space, everyone kept asking me, “are you sure you want white floors?  really?”

this is what it looked like before the white floors went in:

pretty good, huh?     but this is the same view after:

i kept saying, ” i think i want white floors…”  but had no idea what a defining feature of the gallery they would be.   they do several really important things.    first, the white floors link the walls.  separated by the dark floor, stark planes of sheet rock were like individual stages.   art looked great on them, but work on each wall felt  independent and unrelated to works on other walls.   finishing the floors the same color as the walls essentially eliminates the floor from your consciousness — giving the gallery an unusual coherence.   second, by removing the element of the floors from the visual equation, the art stands out from the space and has more impact — it’s the art that “pops” while the space recedes.  finally, and most impressively the daylight bouncing off the white floors is what gives the space its even, soft glow.  it’s the most flattering art lighting i have ever seen.

we used scrims on the sky lights to soften the glare,  reduce the UV and diffuse and even-out the light.

we frosted the bottom window panes, eliminating the view of traffic outside and creating a visually “quiet” space.   before:

after:

i’m prejudiced, but think this is a extraordinary place to view art…   and know it’s going to be really fun to curate.
the new hosfelt gallery, san francisco is at 260 utah street between 15th and 16th streets.   hours are tuesday through saturday, 10-6.    the phone is still 415 495 5454.

all of the photos in this post were made by david stroud.

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