Berggruen Gallery Debuts its New SoMa Space



The exterior of the new Berggruen Gallery by Jennifer Weiss Architecture.Built on a roster of coveted artists ranging from Richard Serra to Tauba Auerbach, Berggruen Gallery’s reputation as a locus of the West Coast art world is well established. Husband-and-wife owners John and Gretchen Berggruen have worked with San Francisco’s art savvy for more than 45 years, supporting artists’ careers and helping patrons build top-notch collections. Now, the gallery begins a new chapter, reopening this month in a 10,000-square-foot space at the corner of Hawthorne and Howard streets, just opposite from SFMOMA and next door to the city’s newest player, Gagosian Gallery.

Antony Gormley's 2009 cast-iron work, Meme XLII.The major motivation for the relocation was the thirst for change. “If you move, there’s a good chance you will reinvent yourself in some fashion,” notes Mr. Berggruen. “We’re not looking for a wholesale clean slate, but to renew things in a more relevant way.” The inaugural exhibition explores representations of the figure from the early 20th century to today. “I view it as a bridge between our past and future,” says Mrs. Berggruen. “Figuration is an area of interest for us historically, so this exhibition samples artists we’ve been honored to work with for decades and younger artists.” Lucien Freud, Edward  Hopper and Alberto Giacometti, as well as contemporary stars such as George Condo, Antony Gormley, Michael Borremans and Kehinde Wiley are just a few of the 30 featured artists spanning more than 100 years.

San Francisco-based firm Jennifer Weiss Architecture led the build out of the gallery’s new three-story home, which honors the original 1908 brick building while creating a sleek interior optimal for viewing art. The design maximizes existing skylights and features a large, open stairwell that connects all three floors of programming space. “We wanted the freedom to do exhibitions in the lower level and have brought light all the way down to it for that purpose,” notes Mrs. Berggruen. Weiss Architecture’s approach also creates permeability between the back rooms and public spaces to encourage visitor-staff interactions.

Keith, 1972, by Chuck Close.By appointing 30-year-old dynamo Sarah Wendell, previously of Christie’s New York, as its new president last fall, the gallery is positioned to usher in the next generation of collectors. But keeping things in perspective, Mrs. Berggruen notes, “We don’t see it as a sea change with new people suddenly having to be part of the art world,” she says. “We’re just doing what we’ve always done—creating exhibitions and engaging one collector at a time.”

A version of this article appeared in the October 2016 issue of SFC&G (San Francisco Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: A Fresh Trajectory.

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