The late Donald Fisher is best known as the co-founder of Gap, purveyor of casual dressing to the global masses. But along with being an icon of the garment trade, Fisher, in partnership with his wife Doris, was also one of America's most influential contemporary-art collectors.
The Fishers' trove was started in the 1960s. Famously festooned on the walls of Gap's San Francisco HQ, it eventually totaled some 1,100 blue-chip pieces by 185 titans of the 20th century, ranging from Pop-art masters like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein to sculptor Richard Serra and abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning. Fisher had originally conceived a purpose-built museum in San Francisco's Presidio parkland as the collection's ultimate home, but he eventually dropped the plan in the face of conservationist opposition. Instead, he came to an agreement with the city's Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), sfmoma.org, to house and manage the collection. The deal's announcement was made just two days before his death in 2009.
MOMA's current exhibition, "Calder to Warhol: Introducing the Fisher Collection," represents the first public unveiling of that legacy and is a cornerstone of the museum's 75th anniversary program. Running until Sept. 19, the sprawling show presents more than 160 monumental works and inhabits more than two floors of the museum. Portraitist Chuck Close's massive images are displayed in two galleries; Warhol has two galleries as well. Claes Oldenburg's pieces complement Lichtenstein's in a gallery devoted to figurative works. There are important video works by Iran's Shirin Neshat and William Kentridge from South Africa, and MOMA's roof garden is dotted with seminal sculptures by Isamu Noguchi, Beverly Pepper and others.
While the Fisher pieces will be integrated into the museum's permanent collection, MOMA is already exploring the possibility of a $60 million expansion to house the works and solidify its place as a rival to London's Tate and New York City's MOMA. "There are other great private collections, but few like the Fisher have ever been presented to the public," says director Neal Benezra. "This small introduction is really an attempt to whet the viewers' appetite for far more to come."