SANTA ROSA, CA -- The Sonoma County Museum Foundation announces an expansion and official opening of its new Art Museum of Sonoma County set for Saturday, April 11, 2015. A former warehouse has been transformed into an expansive 4,500 square-foot contemporary art gallery featuring skylights in soaring twenty-foot ceilings and museum-specific environment controls. The new Art Museum is located at 505 B Street, east of the historic post office building in the same block. That building will now be solely dedicated to local and regional history and renamed History Museum of Sonoma County.
The region will benefit from a full block of downtown Santa Rosa’s 7th Street offering culture, art and history. The block will contain the new Art Museum, the renamed History Museum and the Sculpture Garden to the west.
Festivities and events celebrating the new Art Museum begin Friday evening, April 10th. A private tour of the opening exhibition, Andy Warhol to Kara Walker: Picturing the Iconic, will be led by art collector and philanthropist, Jordan D. Schnitzer, followed by a special dinner. Mr. Schnitzer is lending part of his extensive collection to the Museum for its inaugural exhibit. Saturday evening, April 11 will feature a gala party themed “Studio 54,” in honor of numerous artists in the exhibition who defined the modern, “Pop” era of American art and The New York School.
The Art Museum’s History, Inception and Renovation
When Sonoma County Museum’s long-time tenant moved to a new location in 2013, the Museum decided to utilize the building on the corner of Seventh and B for a new art museum. Structurally, the former Conklin Bros. building was fraught with problems and, without significant investment, could not be brought up to current building codes or transformed into a high quality contemporary art museum.
The Art Museum of Sonoma County is being built in two phases: Phase I, which opens April 11, 2015, included the renovation the building’s warehouse space. The large, open room is ideal for contemporary art, having tall ceilings, a roll-up glass garage door, and concrete floors. Plans for Phase II, the front part of the building, will include space for education programs, additional exhibit space and offices. Plans will be released in the near future.
The Sonoma County Museum had been discussing an expansion for nearly a decade. Originally conceived as a history museum in 1985, collections soon expanded to include paintings and sculpture. Examples include gifts of 19th century California landscape paintings by Thomas Hill, William Keith and others. Freestone resident Tom Golden left his collection of Christo & Jeanne‐Claude’s art and artifacts to the Museum, which is now travelling to venues around the country. A serious effort to expand the Museum was initiated in 2000-2001 when the Museum purchased property on both sides of the post office building.
In 2000-2001, the Museum commissioned the design of the block-long project that wrapped around the historic building and created gallery space, classrooms, a theater, café and storage for both art and history. The design project reflected the Museum’s desire to function both as an art museum and as a history museum, but its scale and cost grew beyond what the Museum could achieve given the economic downturn. In the following years, the Museum built a sculpture garden on the east side of the post office, demolishing a run-down building and transforming a vacant lot into a beautiful garden space.
In 2001, Sonoma County Museum launched a capital campaign for an expansion plan proposed at that time. When the large-scale project was ultimately abandoned, the Museum had raised $6.5 million, funds that provided the resources for the current construction, and funds to contribute to an endowment in support of long-term programming.
The Inaugural Art Exhibition
The exhibit, Andy Warhol to Kara Walker: Picturing the Iconic, will feature 90 works loaned from the collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation. It will bring together a selection of contemporary art selected around the concept of “the iconic.” Whether treated in an iconic manner, such as Warhol’s Pop Art Campbell’s Soup I, or focused on iconic subject matter like Enrique Chagoya’s Elvis meets the Virgin of Guadalupe, the works in this exhibition highlight major currents in art over the past sixty years. The selection of work emphasizes both the serious—with works that address issues of feminism or race relations—and the playful, with work that pokes fun at American culture. This is an exhibition with wide-ranging appeal for art connoisseurs and the general public, both adults and children.
About Jordan D. Schnitzer & The Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation
At age 14, Jordan D. Schnitzer bought his first work of art from his mother’s Portland, Oregon contemporary art gallery, evolving into his lifelong avocation as collector. He began collecting contemporary prints and multiples in earnest in 1988. Today, the collection exceeds 8,000 works and includes many of today’s most important contemporary artists. It has grown to be one of the country’s largest private print collections overall. He generously lends work from his collection to qualified institutions and has organized nearly 100 exhibitions at more than 60 museums. Mr. Schnitzer is also President of Harsch Investment Properties, a privately-owned investment company based in Portland, Oregon.
Says Mr. Schnitzer, “I am pleased to offer this exhibit at the opening of the new Art Museum of Sonoma County. I encourage people to bring their children to enjoy this art. I can’t talk about art without reinforcing the importance of it being a family experience,” he said. “By taking children to the Museum, you create family time that prompts conversations. I don’t care if a child—or, for that matter, their parents—do not like a particular piece of art. They can talk about the ‘why.’ It opens conversations. I am interested in the conversations.”
The opening exhibit will include work by artists John Baldessari, Mark Bennett, Mel Bochner, Louise Bourgeois, Alexander Calder, Enrique Chagoya, Christo, Robert Cottingham, Jim Dine, Kota Ezawa, Shepard Fairey, MK Guth, Jane Hammond, Keith Haring, Arturo Herrera, Robert Indiana, Jasper Johns, Jeff Koons, Barbara Kruger, David Levinthal, Roy Lichtenstein, Glenn Ligon, Nicola Lopez, Takashi Murakami, Bruce Nauman, Claes Oldenburg, Deborah Oropallo, Anton Perich, Mel Ramos, Robert Rauschenberg, Jim Riswold, James Rosenquist, Edward Ruscha, Roger Shimomura, Lorna Simpson, Kiki Smith, Kara Walker and Andy Warhol.
Grand Opening Weekend Events
Sonoma County Museum Foundation board and staff have planned a full weekend of opening events. Beginning on Friday evening, April 10, a dinner for sponsors and donors will begin at 6:00 p.m. with a cocktail reception and private tour of the inaugural exhibition given by collector Jordan D. Schnitzer at the Art Museum. Then, at 7:30, guests will be served dinner at Santa Rosa’s historic and beautifully restored McDonald Mansion. Chef Charlie Palmer will prepare the meal, with wines provided by Iron Horse Vineyards. Tickets, with proceeds going to support the new museum’s exhibitions, are $750 per person.
The following evening, Museum staff and volunteers are preparing for a tented grand opening gala entitled: STUDIO 54. The party runs from 7:30 - 11:00 p.m. on Saturday evening, April 11. The re-creation of Studio 54, which defined a glittering era in the New York club scene, also reflects the energy, time and place of many of the art pieces to be shown in the first exhibit. Attendees are encouraged to dress in their finest disco outfits, and follow the spotlight to the red carpet walk. DJs, disco balls and divas will help recreate the original Studio 54 experience. There will be opportunities to view the opening exhibition and purchase art at a silent auction. Food will be provided by Stark & Company Catering. Tickets are $175 for members and $200 for the general public.
Future programs and exhibitions at the Art Museum of Sonoma County will feature artists who exhibit both nationally and internationally, as well as public lectures, workshops and other educational programming. The History Museum will also provide a full range of public and educational exhibits and programs.
Questions on plans, events, or how to contribute to the Museum’s art or history funds should be directed to Diane Evans at 707-579-1500 x11. www.museumsc.org