Monday, April 16, 2007

San Francisco Social Diary

Views from the Kramlichs' home in Presidio Heights
By Jeanne Lawrence


Foremost contemporary art collectors Pamela and Richard Kramlich, (known to friends as Pam and Dick) hosted a dinner in their Presidio Heights home to welcome Rudolf Frieling, the new Curator of Media Art at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA).

As I entered the gates of their courtyard, I noticed the apple-shaped, hand-wrought iron doorknobs and asked Dick if they represent the “Big Apple” – where they have a second home. “No, Apple Computers bought this house,” he said with a laugh. I assumed this meant his investments in Apple paid off well.  

SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra introduced Frieling to the guests.  “It was a long courtship to convince him to leave ZKM Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany,” he said.  “Rudolf is the museum’s major acquisition.”

Pam announced over pre-dinner cocktails that the party marked several milestones: their 25th anniversary, their 23rd year with the museum, and their 20th year of collecting.  These are very dear friends of mine. In fact, they even became engaged at my wedding party years ago. 

Once married, the Kramlichs decided to pursue a common interest by combining their two worlds: Pam’s love of visual arts and design and Dick’s hi-tech interests in Silicon Valley – he co-founded the venture capital firm, New Enterprise Associates (NEA).
Pam and Dick Kramlich, in front of Jeff Wall's 'Untangle'
Alex Lloyd with Julia and Kevin Hartz with Warhol's 1978 'Shadow'
The couple believes in the potential of new technology, and their collection includes various media – video, slides, film, audio, and computer-based installations.

Today, with more than 300 pieces by some 60 international artists, ARTnews named them one of the World’s “top 200 collectors.”

Several years ago, I realized how prescient their idea of collecting media art was.  They invited me in to P.S.1 Contemporary Arts Center in Queens (an affiliate of NY MoMA), where Pam serves on the Board, to see their exhibition in 2002, “Video Acts; Single Channel Works from the Collections of Pamela and Richard Kramlich and the New Art Trust.”

New York’s Museum of Modern Art director Glenn Lowry led an international group of the Kramlich’s friends and artists through the exhibition of performance-related video works.  I noted that many of the artists, whose works they collected early on, now, two decades later, are considered ‘blue-chip’ and major artists of today.  Therein lays the Kramlichs’ genius: they are cutting-edge collectors.

For a little history, ten years ago, the Kramlichs established the New Art Trust (NAT) to promote collecting and exhibiting media art. It’s said to be “one of the richest archives of media art in the world.”

The trust has a global impact, benefiting not only SFMOMA (Pam is also a board member), but also New York’s MoMA and the Tate Modern in London.

SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra with host Pam Kramlich
Recently, they donated 21 works from their personal collection to NAT including such artists as Marina Abramovic, Vito Acconci, Doug Aitken (whose exhibition opened at New York MoMA in January 2007), Matthew Barney, Dara Birnbaum, Marcel Broodthaers, Bruce Nauman, Nam June Paik, Thomas Struth, and Bill Viola.

“We always planned to share these with the public and we are thrilled that they can finally come out of storage and be properly showcased,” Pam said. “The idea is that who owns the work is not as important as showing the work.”

The attendees included: Susan Swig Watkins, who inherited her love of art from her mother Cissie Swig; David and Charlotte Winton; Patricia and William Wilson; and Chairman of the SFMOMA Board Steve Oliver. 

Guest Jane Metcalfe, co-founder of Wired Magazine and University of California Berkeley Museum Board member, chatted with fellow Board member Robert Shimshak about the Bill Viola’s piece “The Greeting.”

This work was based on the painting “The Visitation” (1529) by Jacopo daPontormo, which reenacted the biblical moment when Mary tells Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, that the Immaculate Conception has occurred.

“We were at the 46th Venice Biennale when I saw the Viola piece.  I told Pam we have to have this,” Dick said.  It seems there was a lot of competition “but we got there first.”

Viola produced the piece using a fixed camera.  From a single 45-second take, he slows the film speed, producing nearly eight minutes of work that allows the viewer to absorb every expression, gesture, and emotions of this historic meeting.
Director NY's MOMA Glenn Lowry led tour in 2002 of Kramlich's collection at PS1
Artists celebrate with Kramlichs at PS1 Contemporary Art Center
Among interesting viewers were Raoul Kennedy and Martha Nolte, Ian Reeves and Robin Wright of Seattle, designers Yves Behar and Martha Davis, artist Bill Fontana,Wilhelm and Ran Oehl, Bryon Meyer, and April and GlennBucksbaum.

Other guests included SF Art Commissioner Alexander Lloyd (son of NYer Susan Lloyd), Julia and Kevin Hartz, founder of XOOM (a money transfer website); and XOOM Chairman Roelof Botha, (a YouTube Board member), and Michael McDonell and Reimi Kobayashi McDonell.

Of course, the dinner was superb as it was prepared by Chef Mike Tusk who with his wife Lindsay Tusk is owner of Quince restaurant - renowned for the best homemade pasta in town. 

The night before, entertainer Bette Midler dined there as she was in town to perform for the UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center’s big benefit.

After dinner, several artists chatted with Kevin Harts and Michael McDonell who are featured in Living Pictures/Men in Gold by French artist, Sylvie Blocher, but more about that later.
SFMOMA Chair Steve Oliver and host Dick Kramlich, video
Robert Shimshak with Jane Metcalfe, co-founder of Wired magazine
Apple Doorknobs - a tribute to Apple Computer success
Collection of handcrafted pottery by Frances Palmer, Pam's sister-in-law
Rudolf Frieling, new Curator of Media Art at SFMOMA, via Germany
Donated to NAT- Bruce Nauman 'Raw Material - OK, OK, OK'
Michael McDonell and Remi Kobayashi McDonnell, and Jeff Koon's gilded mirror
Lindsay Tusk of famed Quince restaurant
Susan Swig Watkins
Artists Martha Davis and Yves Behar
Donated - Nam June Paik 'TV Buddha' 1989


Several nights later, crowds lined up for San Francisco Modern of Modern Art’s opening night for three exhibitions: Picasso, Marden, and Blocher. 

The Picasso show, which originated at the New York Museum of Modern Art, follows his influence on fellow artists in the 20th Century.  Some 40 of his works are juxtaposed with 100 works by artists such as Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, and Jackson Pollock. Trinity College’s MichaelFitzgerald curated the show, both in New York and San Francisco.

Concurrently, Brice Marden: A Retrospective of Paintings and Drawings, displayed more than 50 paintings from the early 1960s to the present, which was organized by Gary Garrels, senior curator at the Hammer Museum, University of California, Los Angeles.
NY MOMA's Jennifer Russell, Mimi Haas, Arie Lurie, with NY MOMA director Glenn Lowry
Media Arts Curator Rudolf Frieling
“Brice’s work has never been seen like this before,” said Garrels.  “The museum has such wonder natural lighting.”

It was also the world premier of Living Pictures/Men in Gold, digging for gold in the 21st century, by French multimedia artist Sylvie Blocher. This San Francisco-based work, commissioned by the Museum,explores success and wealth in America. Sylvie interviewed and filmed successful Silicon Valley high-tech entrepreneurs (including Michael McDonell and Kevin Hartz – two of the Kramlich’s dinner guests) as a way of understanding our culture. 

Sylvie’s said her Europeans friends warned her that Americans don’t like to talk about sex, but she soon discovered they don’t like to talk about money either.  She asked one man, “Are you rich?” to which he replied, “No, I’m wealthy.” I think you get the point. 

Adding to the evening’s atmosphere was busy D. J. Tony Plamondon who played “sexy music” for the first hour by Colder.

The evening was upbeat and hip – even a family night.
Artists Robert Bechtle and Brice Marden
SFMOMA Trustee Cathy Post and SFMOMA Curator Janet Bishop
Brice Marden
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Mimi Haas and Ari Lurie
Margrit Mondavi chats with Alice Waters - long time friends
Peter Hall and wife designer Alice Wiley
Artist Sylvie Blocher and Michael McDonell - one of 'Men in Gold'
Janet Bishop and Jennifer Mewah
Tuce Peksayar and Seth Chandler, a new member
DJ Tony Plamondon
Director Neal Benezra and Maria Makena
Howard and Gretchen Leach with Pat and Bill Wilson
Artist Yves Behar and friends
Mark Buell, Chairman of SF Conservation Corp and famed chef Alice Waters of Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley
Great DJ, Drinks, and Food
SFMOMA Trustees Helen Hilton Raiser and Jean Douglas
Lauren Hutton, Earl McGrath, and Jeanette Etheredge
Carolyn and Preston Butcher
Christie's Elanor Notides with Russell Notides
Family Entertainment and the little ones dance
Another 'Men in Gold' participant
SF Museum of Modern Art by night

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