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Gap’s Donald Fisher Touts Plans For Contemporary Art Museum

"It's going to be an amazing place once this gets done," said Donald Fisher, former Gap Inc. chairman, addressing a packed audience Monday night here in his...

SAN FRANCISCO — “It’s going to be an amazing place once this gets done,” said Donald Fisher, former Gap Inc. chairman, addressing a packed audience Monday night here in his hometown. The crowd in the Presidio Officers’ Club ballroom was eager to hear of his plans for a modern art museum in the historic Presidio, a federal park and former Spanish and U.S. Army outpost with vistas of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.

The museum would house the art that Fisher and his wife and Gap co-founder, Doris, have collected since 1969 while building their global fashion retail business. The Fishers were joined in the front row by their three sons, William, Robert and John. This was the first time anyone in the family had publicly talked about their proposed gift since approaching the Presidio Trust with the idea this summer.

This story first appeared in the December 5, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Fisher said the gift of the museum is not intended to be a monument to his family. “We are not calling it the Fisher Art Museum because we don’t want our names attached. We want to make it more public,” Fisher said about the decision to call it The Contemporary Art Museum at the Presidio, or CAMP.

The Fishers had considered placing their 1,000-work collection — artists include Richard Serra, Alexander Calder, Andy Warhol, Chuck Close, Willem DeKooning and Bryce Marden — in other museums. However, they were concerned the art would be competing for space and largely kept in storage, Fisher said. “We wanted it to be seen,” he explained. “Essentially, this is the only site that works for us.”

To design CAMP, the Fishers tapped New York architects Gluckman Mayner Associates, whose projects have included Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum, Santa Fe’s Georgia O’Keefe Museum and recent additions to the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego and the Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art. The firm this year was selected for the expansion of New York’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

For CAMP, Gluckman Mayner has designed a two-story masonry and glass building to be located at the foot of an old parade ground with sweeping views through floor-to-ceiling windows. The design shows an angled sod roof backing into a hill, which minimizes the museum’s footprint. Across the street, the Fishers also will renovate an old Spanish colonial-style U.S. Army building to house art and photography workshops.

It’s up to the seven-member Presidio Trust board to decide on whether to accept the Fishers’ museum gift. At the hearing, CAMP boosters were out in force and opponents seemed mostly concerned about increased traffic and less parking. As a last-minute addition before the hearing, the Fishers added a below-ground parking garage.

CAMP backers who spoke included Mayor Gavin Newsom, who referred to “the Olympic nature of what the Fisher family is offering.”

San Franciscan architect Art Gensler said CAMP’s design bridges the historical Presidio with a modern society. “We ought to be willing to work with the new and the old,” Gensler said.

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