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Arts & Culture

Guenther Pavilion steals show at Briscoe fundraiser

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River view of the Briscoe Museum's Guenther Pavilion

While more than 60 eminent artists are participating in this year's fundraiser for the Briscoe Museum of Western Art at the 11th Annual Night of Artists Exhibition & Sale, to my eyes the blue ribbon shouldn't go to prize-winning sculptor and Cowboy Artists of America member T.D. Kelsey, top-selling wildlife painter Luke Frazier, landscape painter Jerry Jordan of Taos, N.M., or even famed Nez Perce sculptor Doug Hyde. The commanding piece is the site of this year's show, the Briscoe's new Jack Guenther Pavilion. Named after one of the Briscoe's co-founders, and designed by the nationally known local firm Lake|Flato Architects, the limestone and copper-clad building opened quietly last Saturday after the Night of Artists Friday night gala. The exhibition, which in previous years has been held at the University of the Incarnate Word, is the first public event at the Briscoe Museum campus, which is still under construction on West Market Street by the San Antonio River. The show is on view on the second and third floors of the pavilion, and is open free of charge through April 29.

Lake|Flato is known for developing Texas vernacular design. The top floor of the pavilion utilizes one of their signature features: a high, peaked ceiling with exposed beams and jutting center ridge, inspired by Texas barn architecture. Wood paneling is used in traffic areas, warming the ambience. The exterior limestone was sourced from a quarry near Amarillo. The second floor is much lower than the vaulting top floor, making it more suitable for temporary exhibitions of light-sensitive objects, such as works on paper. The first floor is dedicated event space and the permanent collection will be housed in the adjacent historic Hertzberg building; once a SA Public Library branch, it is still under renovations and is expected to open in late 2013.

Named after Texas Governor Dolph Briscoe, the new museum was originally scheduled to open in 2009, but has been plagued with financial and administrative problems, going through four directors, and escalating its cost from an initial $18 million to $30 million, of which $7 million has been provided by county and city taxpayers. Last November, the Briscoe's board announced that they had nearly achieved their goal, having raised $27 million, and brought in Steven Karr, the past director of the Southwest Museum of the American Indian at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles, to helm the new venture.

"A lot of people think that Western art is simply cowboy art. They don't realize it is also American Indian art, it's Spanish art, it's devotional art, it's folk art. The key word is 'Western,'" said Karr, who is also a historian with a specialization in Western American Indians. "This iconic city called San Antonio, it is the West, the West is here. There are just a lot of interpretations of what that is."

Night of Artists Exhibition & Sale

10am-4pm, Tuesday-Sunday
The Briscoe Museum
210 W Market
(210) 299-4499
On view to April 29

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