Donald Fisher died of cancer yesterday, the Associated Press reported last night. The real estate developer turned Gap founder waged a long campaign to build a museum in San Francisco for his art collection. His sudden decision to donate his works to the SFMoMA was announced just late last week. Kenneth Baker, the San Francisco Chronicle‘s art critic, puts the decision in context:
Absent that agreement, the shock of Mr. Fisher’s death on Sunday would have been far more traumatic. One his most ardent wishes concerning his public legacy – the prominent, and local, display of his artwork – will be fulfilled. […]
All of these artists are deemed blue chip today, but many will still greet pieces in the Fisher collection with skepticism, such as the “blackboard” paintings by Twombly, of which the collection includes one huge, great example. Mr. Fisher may have bought “safe” artists, but he seldom chose safe examples of their work.
Fifteen years ago, public controversy helped to scuttle another patron’s promised gift to the city of a large sculpture by Serra, also a San Francisco native. After that debacle, Mr. Fisher commissioned a major indoor work by Serra for the new Folsom Street headquarters of Gap Inc., which will remain there.
Even the museum public that knows Warhol, Close and Serra will be surprised by some very powerful objects in the Fisher collection, such as an ensemble of sculptures by Jannis Kounellis, an artist revered in Europe but comparatively unknown in the United States.
Donald Fisher, Gap Co-Founder, Dies at 81 (New York Times)
Don Fisher Art Collection a Legacy (SF Chronicle)