Museums vie for Presidio spot

Two proposed museums are vying for prime real estate in the Presidio, setting the stage for a tough decision by overseers of the national park.

Gap Inc. founder and former Presidio trustee Don Fisher has offered to build a 100,000-square-foot modern-art museum at the Main Post, and to fill it with his and his wife’s extensive art collection.

Both projects are proposed for the site of the Presidio Bowling Center, at the corner of Montgomery and Moraga streets on the western corner of the Parade Grounds, Presidio Trust Executive Director Craig Middleton said recently. If the Presidio Trust moves forward with one of the proposals, the bowling alley will be demolished, according to Middleton, although it might be relocated.

The bowling alley, which is surrounded by Civil War-era military buildings, was built at the Presidio’s historic Main Post, which was used as a fort for more than two centuries by the Spanish, Mexican and American armies.

“If anything is to be built there, it should be a substantial history center,” said former Presidio Historical Association President Whitney Hall, who was stationed at the Presidio Army Base from 1979 to 1982. “When people think of a military museum, they think of swords and sabers and all that. We’re thinking of America’s presence at the end of the Pacific expansion.”

Fisher’s proposal would deliver The City another arts-focused landmark, and it would feature works by such celebrated artists as minimalist sculptor Richard Serra and pop artist Andy Warhol.

Fisher would foot the bill for the “modern minimalist design” museum’s construction, according to his spokesman, Sam Singer.

“The Fisher collection, without a doubt, is one of the great collections in the planet of contemporary art,” Singer said.

“The Fishers’ proposal would jump-start the Presidio’s plans to renovate and renew the main parade grounds, and it would make the Presidio the world-class destination that it should be,” Singer said. “Their vision is to create a world-class contemporary art museum that has substantial educational opportunities.”

The seven-person Presidio Trust in August called for proposals to build a new “cultural institution” at the Presidio, and they will consider the dueling alternatives tonight at a public meeting.

Dueling proposals

Contemporary Art Museum of the Presidio

» Features: More than 1,000 pieces of art, including pieces by Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Ellsworth Kelly, Richard Serra, Gerhard Richter, Alexander Calder

» Size: 100,000 square feet, including 55,000 feet of gallery space

» Funding: Don Fisher

History Center at the Golden Gate

» Features: Exhibitions on Presidio history-makers, the end of the American western expansion, America’s presence as a Pacific Rim nation, and the future of the Golden Gate.

» Size: 45,000 to 50,000 square feet

» Funding: Grant applications and fundraising efforts

Source: Presidio Historical Association, Sam Singer Associates

jupton@examiner.com

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