Categories: Arts Visual Arts

Artist David Ireland’s legacy lives on at 500 Capp Street

Work by the late contemporary artist David Ireland — known for finding beauty in everyday objects — is living on, in his home at 500 Capp St. in San Francisco’s Mission.

The century-old Italianate-style house, which Ireland filled with his own site-specific pieces and made into a work of art in its own right, is opening to the public this week after a loving and complex two-year preservation project.

“His ideas and creative spirit are ingrained in the artist community here, and it’s an honor to lead this collaborative effort to ensure the ongoing life of the space and to extend his legacy,” said art patron and philanthropist Carlie Wilmans, who purchased the building for $850,000 in 2008 to keep it from developers’ hands (Ireland died in 2009) and established a foundation to foster its success into the future.

At a preview event Tuesday, Wilmans, along with representatives from Jensen Architects and Architectural Resources Group, which handled the delicate $2 million restoration, said their goal was not only to maintain the property’s artistic and historical integrity, but to maximize its function, for everybody’s benefit.

“David actively curated his home, so we have no intention of placing a bell jar over the house. The house will remain a dynamic and vital space for ongoing artistic dialogue,” said Wilmans, noting that artists’ residencies are among the 500 Capp Street Foundation’s plans for the space.

Work done on the house included a new concrete foundation, stabilization of the interior and new lead-free paint, as well as the addition of an elevator, study center, gallery and outdoor terrace.

Opening Friday and continuing through March 19, 500 Capp Street’s inaugural exhibition “David Ireland’s House” includes the artist’s most iconic sculptures, drawings, furniture, ephemera, photographs and other objects from the home’s 3,000-piece collection.

Ireland, whose work is in the Museum of Modern Art, Smithsonian and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, was influenced by travels in Africa as well studies in printmaking and industrial arts at Oakland’s California College of Arts and Crafts.

Yet his residence for 30 years at 500 Capp St., where he mentored young artists (particularly from the San Francisco Art Institute, a place where he also studied), was his main source for material and inspiration.

David Ireland House Grand Opening Celebration
Where: 500 Capp St., S.F.
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 15-17
Tickets: $15 to $20 (tours require reservations)
Contact: (415) 986-1571,
Note: “6 Block Scores,” free programming by Southern Exposure presented in response to Ireland’s life and work, takes place from noon to 5 p.m. Jan. 16, outdoors on 20th Street, between Capp and Harrison streets.

Leslie Katz

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