San Antonio's Newest Cultural Icon, Ruby City, Opens in Growing Unique Arts Scene

David Gonzalez |

Opening of a contemporary art center designed by renowned architect Sir David Adjaye OBE as well as major exhibition of Mexican artist Sebastián, puts the Alamo City on art lovers’ must-see lists

San Antonio (Sept. 30, 2019) – The much-anticipated opening of Ruby City, a ground-breaking contemporary art center, extends San Antonio’s long history as an arts leader including the distinction of having the first modern art museum in Texas and hosting one the of the largest Latin American art collections in the world. Ruby City is the latest major cultural development in San Antonio, coming on the heels of a $100 million expansion and renovation of The Witte Museum, a multi-million-dollar grounds transformation at the McNay Art Museum and $40 million expansion at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. The new experiences, along with remarkable exhibitions puts San Antonio in the art world spotlight this fall.

Opening October 13 is the culmination of years of planning by the late collector, philanthropist and artist Linda Pace. Envisioned by Pace in 2007, Ruby City is dedicated to providing a space for contemporary works by both locally and internationally acclaimed artists. Building on works from the Linda Pace Foundation Collection of more than 900 paintings, sculptures, installations and video works, the inaugural exhibition is presented in three parts, entitled Waking Dream, Isaac Julien: Playtime, and Jewels in the Concrete.

For distinguished architect Sir David Adjaye, the design of the 14,000-square-foot building is inspired, in part, by the 16th century Spanish Missions found in San Antonio. The exterior skin is formed of a concrete fabricated in Mexico and imbued with a rich red tone giving the building its ruby red glow. For the first 10 feet the concrete is polished and smooth, while above giving way to a rough, sharp surface encrusted with sparkling red glass. Two lanterns adorn the top of the building creating an animated roofline that draws natural light into the gallery spaces.

"My goal was to translate Linda's idea into a building that will do justice to her legacy. It is a tremendous responsibility and one that is dear to my heart," said Sir David Adjaye. "Linda had a clear vision for how the institution should be an inspirational space for the community and interact with its surroundings, drawing visitors into the jewel-like structure while connecting to the San Antonio landscape. The building creates a narrative journey through the space that allows the collection to be accessed in an organic and meaningful way."

The museum is part of a larger campus that includes Chris Park, a one-acre public green space named in memory of Pace’s son, and Studio, an auxiliary exhibition space that presents curated shows throughout the year.  All exhibitions are free to the public.

Visitors to San Antonio also can look forward to a massive celebration of Mexican artist Sebastián, in an exclusive city-wide exhibit named “Sebastian in San Antonio: 50+ Years/20+ sites/100+ works.” These 2D and 3D works, mostly large-scale sculptures, will be on display from September 2019 to May 2020 in accessible locations including the River Walk, Market Square, Spanish Governor’s Palace, Culture Commons Gallery at Plaza de Armas, McNay Art Museum and the San Antonio International Airport.

Best known for his more than 200 monumental steel and concrete sculptures found around the world, Sebastián’s work has been shown in more than 190 solo exhibitions and permanent works in Mexico, Germany, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Ireland, England, Portugal, Italy, Denmark, Canada, Finland, the United States, France, Japan, Switzerland and Venezuela. San Antonio is a city of significance for Sebastián and his work, with his iconic “La Antorcha de la Amistad” (“Torch of Friendship”) sculpture in San Antonio not only a notable part of the city’s skyline, but also a gift from the Mexican government to San Antonio to honor the deep ties between the two cultures. The iconic red sculpture sits two blocks from the Alamo and measures 65 feet in height.

The opening of Ruby City and the Sebastián exhibition join San Antonio’s more than two dozen cultural institutions and art spaces, making the city a top destination for art lovers in search of an enriching getaway. Combine the sights with the city’s celebrated restaurant and bar scene, and you have all the ingredients for an artful vacation. Additional arts highlights for this fall include:

Artpace San Antonio – For its 25th anniversary this fall, Artpace hosts exhibitions by artists whose connections stretch back to the residency program’s beginnings. Alex de Leon and Elizabeth McGrath were both resident artists in 1996 during the program’s second year and prior to that, participated in Artpace’s London Studio Program in 1995. Alex de Leon’s exhibition will be a first of its kind featuring works representing his thirty-plus-year career which demonstrates the artist’s accessibility in terms of both material and subject matter. The exhibition of work by Elizabeth McGrath, who is now a licensed psychotherapist, will have on view objects originally created for her Artpace residency in 1996. The centerpiece of the exhibition will be her 1996 work, Broken, a wooden chair entangled in netting that stretches to the ceiling. Also included in the exhibition are polyurethane balls that were part of her residency exhibition, two of which are permanently embedded in the Artpace lobby ceiling. All of the objects in the exhibition are presented through the lens of Stahl’s current psychoanalytic practice. The exhibitions are on view now through December 29, 2019.

Blue Star Contemporary – San Antonio’s first contemporary art space continues with four strong exhibitions on view October 4 through January 5, 2020, including:

  • Joey Fauerso: Teardowns – the San Antonio-based artist presents new work continuing her investigation of themes of culture, gender, family and humor as a method of response to the socio-political climate and the destructive and reconstructive natures of humanity. The exhibition features a 50-foot mural inspired by the White House’s Diplomatic Reception Room wall-paper Views of North America, along with sculpture, video and performance-based works.
  • Margaret Craig: Sea Islands – conceived during the Blue Star Contemporary Berlin Residency Program, the artist intent is to create work that will engender thought about the relationship between humans and their surroundings. The work includes artist’s trash and household plastic trash repurposed into creatures that may populate the trash that is growingly inhabiting the world’s oceans.  
  • Tsuyoshi Anzai: Healthy Machines – examines the distinctions between able and disable, healthy and unhealthy, unbroken and broken based on the traditional concept of Descartes’s Body as Machine through kinetic sculptures and personal medical documentations.
  • Sterling Allen and Larry Graeber: Formal Proof – addresses established methods of display – from floor, ceiling, wall and pedestal – to marry them with practice and establish a dialog amongst their work.

Briscoe Western Arts Museum – On view now through January 1, 2020, Art and the Animal marks the Society of Animal Artists’ 59th Annual Exhibition and features more than 100 paintings and sculptures of animals around the world. Due to the bounteous contributions from donors, the Briscoe Museum has opened a new gallery. Fittingly dubbed ‘The New Works Gallery’, the space features a rotating display of the museum’s newest acquisitions. Benevolent contributions to the museum from donors and patrons range from fine paintings and bronze sculptures to an extensive antique spur collection.

McNay Art Museum – Texas’ first modern art museum is undergoing a $6.25 million expansion and renovation that will transform the museum grounds and sculpture gardens with Phase I construction scheduled for completion by Spring 2020. Additionally, this fall, McNay visitors will have a special opportunity to view Mary Cassatt’s Impressionist masterpiece The Cup of Tea on exclusive loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in Mary Cassatt’s Women. The piece joins the McNay’s own suite of Cassatt’s well-known and beloved aquatints and other works on paper from October 31 to February 9, 2020. From October 17 to December 29, 2019, the museum also presents Picasso to Hockney: Modern Art on Stage, featuring more than 120 objects from the renowned Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts, an unparalleled treasure-trove of scenic and costume designs amassed by Robert L.B. Tobin, the late San Antonio visionary who recognized and championed theatre arts as fine art.

San Antonio Museum of Art – The iconic museum housed in a former brewery house welcomes two distinct exhibitions this fall. Victorian Radicals: From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts & Crafts Movement explores the ideas that preoccupied artists at the time – the relationship between art and nature, questions of class and gender, the value of handmade versus machine-made, and the search for beauty in an industrial age. Drawn from the outstanding collection of the City of Birmingham, United Kingdom, the exhibition on view October 11 through January 5, 2020, brings together an array of art to illuminate this period including paintings, sculpture, silver, glass, and jewelry. Elegant Pursuits: The Arts of China’s Educated Elite, 1400-1900 on view November 6 to February 23, 2020, celebrates the unveiling of a large, twelve-foot tall, Taihu rock, a gift of the Chinese Sister City, Wuxi, honoring San Antonio’s tricentennial anniversary. The rock will be displayed on the museum campus facing San Antonio’s famed River Walk and will be the first museum in the southwest to present a Taihu rock to the public. Elegant Pursuits focuses on the arts the literati from the Jiangnan Region created during the Ming and Qing dynasties. This exhibition illustrates the taste and artistic creativity inspired by rocks, showcasing 26 rare works from the collection of Wuxi Museum, including objects of gold and silver, jade carvings, paintings and calligraphy, ceramics and implements for the scholar’s desk.

The Witte – Following its recent $100 million expansion and renovation, the museum Texas nature, science and culture meet continues to impress visitors with special events and its exhibitions. On view now through January 12, 2020, Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns & Mermaids invites museum goers to explore models and replicas of preserved specimens and investigate how dragons, unicorns and mermaids could have – through misidentification, speculation, fear or imagination – inspired the development of some legendary creatures.

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Media Contact: 

David Gonzalez
Director of Communications, Visit San Antonio | (210) 244-2013

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