Drive, She Said
A San Antonio auto shop, converted by Poteet Architects, propels the Linda Pace Foundation into the future
David Sokol -- Interior Design, 8/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
Perhaps because she didn't pursue her passion until later in life, Linda Pace threw herself into the art world with a fiery intensity. Between her decision in the late 1980's to collect, fund, and create art and her death in 2007 from breast cancer, the San Antonio–based Pace Foods salsa heiress transformed herself into one of the most influential women in contemporary art—it was her intuition for sniffing out emerging artists that particularly earned her renown. Many of the talents chosen for her Artpace residency program, which opened its doors in her home city in 1995, have gone on to fame and honors. Jeremy Deller won the Turner Prize in 2004, shortly after his stay; Mona Hatoum, Isaac Julien, and Cornelia Parker earned nominations for the $80,000 British award.
Pace's knack for talent-scouting extended from artists to architecture studios. Artpace's home is a 1920's auto showroom converted by Lake/Flato Architects back in 1994, when the firm was just 10 years old. Her own home, where she lived with her adoptive granddaughter, was a condominium in a candy factory transformed by Poteet Architects in 2005, only eight years after it was founded by Jim Poteet. In 2006, she hired him to refashion a dilapidated 1940's auto shop as a studio where she could practice her art, mostly large-scale assemblage work.
The Linda Pace Foundation's president, Rick Moore, remembers walking through the 2,500-square-foot building before the renovation. Rusty holes pierced the corrugated roof of the long-abandoned shop, and such artifacts of its past life as a vintage Cadillac fender littered the dirt floor. "Linda was a big believer in structures," Moore recalls. "She said, 'I don't know what this will be someday, but let's keep it as it is.'"
While honoring the spirit of "let's keep it as it is," Poteet's gut rehab pragmatically included pouring a new concrete floor, replacing the roof and inserting a row of six skylights, and adding a kitchen and a restroom. He also installed a garage door.
"Linda liked the idea of driving her car right in," he says. "Though, actually, she never did." Indeed, she had only six months to enjoy her studio. But she did so furiously. When she died, shelves lining the perimeter were packed with the cookie jars, mannequin parts, and prayer candles that made up her assemblages.
Her patronage of both art and design continues posthumously. Besides granting $1 million to Artpace every year, the Linda Pace Foundation recently brought Poteet back to turn her studio into the foundation's headquarters. As Poteet says, "We got another crack at it." His redesign attempts to make foundation employees and visitors feel as if they're "kind of inhabiting Linda's body," he says.
The second renovation involved just slightly updating the kitchen and the restroom and supplementing existing carpenter-built trusses with additional structural members, set at odd angles. Poteet's biggest move was to build a central volume to house four offices and a conference room. The latter benefits from sunlight filtered through runs of translucent polycarbonate wall panels. People enter through a pair of bright orange doors by Jorge Pardo—once installed in Pace's bedroom. The conference room's Harry Bertoia chairs and Eero Saarinen table formerly inhabited her home gallery.
Pace's onetime studio assistant, now registrar of the foundation, Kelly O'Connor oversaw the hanging of works that are personally meaningful. Stills from a Julien video once exhibited in Pace's loft now grace Moore's office. Photography by Rivane Neuenschwander, once on view over Pace's desk, now hang in the entry gallery.
On the foundation building's opening night, two acquisitions by Daniel Joseph Martinez were unveiled. A text work, his meditation on the pain of beauty, is painted in black on the white rear elevation. Out front—in the area named Chrispark in memory of Pace's son—two Martinez figures in Carrara marble represent Huey Newton and Bobby Seale of the Black Panther Party. The Martinez pieces join a collection comprising 525 others by various artists and 100 of Pace's own, clearly far too many to be shown inside. They're eventually destined for a private museum to be designed by Adjaye Associates's David Adjaye, another architect Pace discovered early in his career.