Testing the waters: Pace Gallery courts Silicon Valley collectors


With the Silicon Valley Contemporary art fair held last April in San Jose and the Art Silicon Valley/San Francisco art fair held in San Mateo in October, it seems California may be finally earning the attention it deserves as an international arts epicenter.

The relatively short, sweet life of the temporary Pace Gallery in Menlo Park is one more sign that that the art world is turning its attention to West Coast collectors.

In mid-April of this year, Pace Menlo Park opened in the old 25,000-square-foot Tesla dealership at the junction of Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Stanford, with the building's electric-car history adding indisputable high-tech cachet. (Many visitors had even purchased their cars there.)

Pace Gallery is one of the major players on the international art market. Founded in 1960, in Boston, it now has five locations for contemporary art in New York, and one each in London, Beijing and Zuoz, Switzerland, plus three subsidiary galleries specializing in prints, photos and African, Asian, Oceanic and American Indian art. Artists in the Pace stable include Alexander Calder, Willem de Kooning, David Hockney, Isamu Noguchi, Pablo Picasso and Mark Rothko, to name but a few an extraordinarily wide and deep bench of art talent.

In an article for New York Observer, arts writer Zoe Lescaze observed: "The art collectors in the Silicon Valley area, ... [Pace president Marc Glimcher said, tend to be new to the game. 'They travel to do their jobs; they're not traveling to go hang out at the Miami art fair.... I mean, I hope they do, but this is why it's important to take it to them.'" Pace borrowed work from a number of other top-tier galleries in this project in order to make the case to potential new collectors: "They need confidence. They need to see that...they're really being brought into the art world."

Pace Menlo Park has made a strong case, indeed, offering not only world-class art in spacious surroundings, but also a bar and an art library housing a thousand volumes. The first show here featured work by Alexander Calder, covering works from 1929 to 1976. The second featured artworks from the past fifteen years by the MacArthur Award-winning Tara Donovan, who is based in New York but well known in the Bay Area. Donovan's obsessive assemblage sculptures exploit the natural properties of such quotidian materials as Mylar, acrylic, film, glass, buttons, toothpicks, pins, pencils and drinking straws to create surprising forms that suggest natural forces and processes.

The current show, "A Brief History of Pace," features some sixty works by heavy hitters including Chuck Close, Jean Dubuffet, Sol LeWitt, Louise Nevelson, Robert Rauschenberg and Zhang Huan. The exhibition showcases Pace's impressive stable, and with a display of old posters and catalogs its historic fifty-five years in the art business.

If most of the names are familiar, there are some surprises in the art: chromed steel abstractions by John Chamberlain, best known for his painted, crushed cars; a 1973 monochrome Jim Dine with appended tools; acrylic paintings from the 1980s by Dubuffet; subdued pattern-painting gouaches on paper by Minimalist LeWitt; and nature-themed paintings probably based on photos by portraitist Alex Katz. A nearly seven-foot-square drawing by Donovan, composed of the 'stippling' of thousands of pins, remains from the previous show. The temporary gallery closes December 13 but not, perhaps, permanently? How this testing of the waters will go remains to be seen. Glimcher, on the new collectors in the Bay Area: "It's a fresh group of people with a great energy. They're really interested in what the artists are trying to accomplish. Conversations here are about the art, the artists, history."

If you go

What: "A Brief History of Pace"

Where: Pace Gallery Menlo Park, 300 El Camino Real

When: Monday-Saturday, noon-7 p.m., through Dec. 13.

Cost: Free

Info: Go to pacegallery.com/menlopark or call 650-462-1368

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