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Contemporary art

San Francisco will greet a new Institute of Contemporary Art

Nascent museum proclaims a commitment to economic justice and expansion of the art canon

Alison Gass, the incoming director of the Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco Ulysses Ortega; Courtesy of the ICA San Francisco

Planners today announced the founding of the Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco (ICA SF), a non-collecting museum that will seek to champion local artists and attract international creative names to the Bay Area. The goal is to open to the public with no admissions charge in an 11,000 sq. ft space in the city’s Dogpatch neighbourhood by the autumn of 2022.

The venue’s director will be Alison Gass, who has served for 14 months as director and chief curator of a parallel entity less than an hour away, the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art. Such non-collecting centres for contemporary works have proliferated in US cities in recent years.

The new museum is underwritten by a donation of $1m from Deborah and Andy Rappaport, the Silicon Valley founders of the five-year-old Minnesota Street Project, an initiative occupying three warehouses in the same neighbourhood that offers free admission to 10 permanent galleries and rents short-term space to arts groups and curators. The investment, provided by their Rappaport Family Foundation, is the biggest chunk of $2.5m in seed money for the institution.

At its newly created website, the museum pledges to push “against tradition and hierarchies, fundamentally changing how contemporary art is curated, compensated and accessed by all”. It says it will prioritise “artists over art holdings, individuals over institutions, and equity and expansion of the canon”.

Gass, who has also led the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art, told The New York Times that the San Francisco institution's non-collecting status would help it pursue economic justice.

“One of the tenets of ICA SF is to address issues of pay equity for artists and staff,” she says. “Instead of an arms race of collecting, we are committed to paying artists and museum workers an above-average salary for our region.”