Billion-dollar art gift for Presidio

It was not widely known that Gap Inc. founder Donald Fisher, 78, along with being a major political player and philanthropist, has also partnered with his wife, Doris, to amass one of the world’s largest private collections of contemporary art.

That information became much more public this week with the Fishers’ dramatic announcement that they wanted to build San Francisco a 100,000-square-foot museum in Presidio National Park to permanently house their more than 1,000 works by the most recognizable names in 20th century art.

Experts have estimated that the entire collection — featuring the likes of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Alexander Calder, Claes Oldenburg and Richard Serra — could be sold for more than $1 billion today. But until now, most of it has hung at the Gap executive headquarters on the Embarcadero, rarely seen by the general public except when pieces are occasionally loaned to museums.

The Fishers’ proposed Contemporary Art Museum of the Presidio would not cost taxpayers a dime, and it would actually be larger than the popularand highly respected San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. This latest exhibition facility would confirm The City’s rising reputation as a world-class center for new museums displaying great art.

Fisher hopes to break ground for the museum at the Presidio’s historic Main Post next August and open in three years. Of course, the project must traverse the usual municipal gauntlet of permits, approvals, environmental reports and public hearings, plus first winning a green light from the seven-member Presidio board.

However, initial reactions to the museum offer have been universally enthusiastic, as befits a billion-dollar surprise package. Mayor Gavin Newsom and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have already expressed support. And Fisher certainly knows his way around Presidio politics, having been an original Presidio trustee confirmed by the White House.

Architects of the Fisher museum will be the New York firm that designed the Whitney Museum in Manhattan and the Museo Picasso Malaga of Spain. Reportedly, there is no top limit on spending.

Opening the irreplaceable Fisher art collection to public viewing in the Presidio is a gift to San Francisco as glorious as it is unexpected. This is capitalism giving back to the community in the finest American tradition.

From Andrew Carnegie virtually paying for the modern U.S. library infrastructure single-handedly, to Bill Gates and Warren Buffet joining forces to give billions for eradicating disease and spreading technology in the Third World, some of the most famous and successful American tycoons have opened their wealth to good causes.

Now Donald and Doris Fisher have joined the forefront of this pantheon, bestowing an unforgettable present on The City, where they began building the $16 billion Gap-Old Navy-Banana Republic empire in 1969 with their first jeans store on Ocean Avenue.

General OpinionOpinion

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and Jill Biden arrive at Biden's inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021, in Washington, DC.  (Win McNamee/Getty Images/TNS)
Joe Biden issues call for ‘unity’ amidst extreme partisan rancor

‘I will be a president for all Americans,’ he says in inauguration speech

MARIETTA, GA - NOVEMBER 15: Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Jon Ossoff (R) and Raphael Warnock (L) of Georgia taps elbows during a rally for supporters on November 15, 2020 in Marietta, Georgia. Both become senators Wednesday.  (Jenny Jarvie/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Vice President Harris swears in senators Padilla, Warnock, Ossoff

New Democratic senators tip balance of power in upper legislative house

President Joe Biden plans to sign a number of executive orders over the next week. (Biden Transition/CNP/Zuma Press/TNS)
Biden signals new direction by signing mask order on his first day in office

President plans ambitious 10-day push of executive orders, legislation

Kamala Harris is sworn in as vice president by U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor as her husband Doug Emhoff looks on at the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/TNS)
A new turn in history: Kamala Harris sworn in as 49th vice president

Noah Bierman and Melanie Mason Los Angeles Times Kamala Devi Harris, born… Continue reading

From left, Doug Emhoff, U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Jill Biden and President-elect Joe Biden wave as they arrive on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol for the inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. During today’s inauguration ceremony Joe Biden becomes the 46th president of the United States. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images/TNS)
Joe Biden inaugurated as 46th president as Trump era comes to an end

Todd Spangler Detroit Free Press Taking over the reins of government at… Continue reading

Most Read