Pace Gallery opens Chelsea HQ with Calder, Hockney and more

Pace Gallery opens Chelsea HQ with Calder, Hockney and more

The lofty 75,000 sq ft New York flagship designed by Bonetti/Kozerski Architecture heralds a new era in the gallery’s five-decade history

While a handful of Manhattan galleries have flocked south where Tribeca is emerging as a new cultural destination, it’s the international blue-chips who are banking on Chelsea’s staying power. The recent opening of Pace Gallery’s 75,000 sq ft headquarters, designed by Bonetti/Kozerski Architecture, cements the powerhouse’s presence in the city’s longstanding art hub with a multi-functional complex that disrupts the contemporary gallery model.

Boasting 16,500 sq ft of exhibition space across eight floors, the 25th Street building greets visitors with a gallery and a light-filled public research library on the ground floor. A sixth floor terrace offers panoramic views of the nearby Hudson River, with a 4,800 sq ft outdoor space protected by a multipurpose top floor reserved for performances, screenings and large-scale installations, such as Fred Wilson’s display of five Ottoman Era-inspired Murano glass chandeliers.

Pace Gallery, 540 West 25th Street, New York. Photography: Thomas Loof. Courtesy of Pace Gallery

The collaboration between the gallery and Bonetti/Kozerski Architecture manifested as an organic process of experimentation from the project’s initiation in 2014, ranging from techniques used for exteriors to different floor materials, such as bleached oak or cement, to accommodate various artistic mediums and colours on the walls. For its first art gallery project, the New York firm blended tradition with ‘a modern silhouette’ to design a building that pays homage to Pace’s five-decade history of fostering cutting-edge artists.

Enrico Bonetti explained to Wallpaper* that the team initially planned to use concrete for the façade. However, the challenge to find good-quality concrete in the US and its impact on construction speed led to the discovery of two alternative materials. Volcanic stone quarried from Sicily’s Mount Etna – a resistant material with glossy surface – was used for the first time in New York, while aluminium foam covers three other exteriors and provides a sculptural coating with its dramatic punctured surface. Inside, a lighting system built in collaboration with Arnold Chan from London-based Isometrix Lighting Design is smoothly tuned to artists’ various preferences. ‘Our research showed most European artists prefer ambient lights while American artists use slightly warmer spotlights,’ said Dominic Kozerski.

The building’s inaugural exhibition programme reflects the diversity of the gallery’s roster. In addition to 10,000 volumes and Pace archives, the research library is reserved for smaller exhibitions, starting with Moroccan artist Yto Barrada’s abstract wallpaper and works on paper inspired by architect Luis Barragán’s books at his Mexico City home. The ground floor gallery does justice to Alexander Calder’s mobile sculptures and traces the series’ evolution from 1920s through the 1960s.

Young painter Loie Hollowell makes her Pace debut on the second floor with mesmerising abstract paintings with three-dimensional touches and bold colour palettes. Third floor hosts another master, David Hockney, whose new 24-panel drawing, La Grande Cour, seamlessly stretches over two walls to orchestrate a vista of Normandy. Third floor exhibits late American photographer Peter Hujar’s intimate black and white pictures of friends and nature. Finally, the fourth and fifth floors are reserved for offices, showrooms, and private gatherings. §

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