The enormous and impressive Fisher Collection finds a public home at SFMOMA
Yes, "Calder to Warhol" is dizzying. It is also frequently dazzling. But I can't help but feel a little squeamish in the face of such a grand and copious cache; one that until recently had been displayed as an act of corporate largesse to those in the service of the empire that funded its acquisition.
Art collecting is a form of investment, capital put down toward ensuring the collector's future legacy as much as it is a reflection of aesthetic tastes. The Fishers rarely sold pieces, and the equal attention they paid to collecting both figurative and abstract works — as well as an earlier failed bid to construct a private museum in the Presidio — suggests that the collection was developed increasingly with an eye toward creating the very sort of jaw-dropping endowment of which SFMOMA now finds itself the very fortunate recipient.
Certainly for SFMOMA, the benefits of this gift are clear. The museum's profile has undoubtedly risen, and will continue to rise once the planned expansion set to house the remaining 90 percent of the collection's holdings is complete. What remains less apparent throughout "Calder to Warhol" is a sense of the Fishers' personal investment in the pieces they so assiduously acquired. To simply say that the art — so much amazing work, now finally on view — speaks for itself is only half true. As with any major private collection, it also speaks to a long campaign waged over the peaks and valleys of the art market.
Still, the Fishers aren't merely the sum of their deep pockets. I wish the wall panels revealed when each piece had been bought, and whether Don or Doris had singled it out first (Imagine their dinner conversations: "Honey, would you like to buy a Dan Flavin?"). That information would put a different, perhaps more humanizing, spin on the story "Calder to Warhol" currently tells: a testament to the Fishers' wide-reaching, frequently well-informed, and relatively safe taste for blue chip names.
CALDER TO WARHOL: INTRODUCING THE FISHER COLLECTION
Through Sept. 19, $9–$15
(children under 12 free; first Tuesday of every month free)
151 Third St., SF