Pamela And C. Richard Kramlich - THE ULTIMATE VIDEO ART RETREAT

SAN FRANCISCO — Pamela Kramlich clearly didn’t know what she was getting herself into when she bought her first work of video art in 1987. Having seen a deliciously zany video, “The Way Things Go,” by the Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss, she thought it might provide amusing dinner-party entertainment at her house in the Presidio Heights section of San Francisco.

She telephoned the Sonnabend Gallery in New York to inquire how to obtain it. “That’s easy,” the gallery’s director, Antonio Homem, told her. 

She supplied her Mastercard number and a short time later, as she recalls, “a videotape with a funny sticker” arrived in the mail. Produced in an edition of 300, the tape of “The Way Things Go” cost her $350.

Richard Mosse's “The Enclave,” 2012-13, was filmed in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mr. Mosse used infrared surveillance photography to depict the violent rebellion there and show the suffering and destruction that people in the West were ignoring.CreditRyan Young for The New York Times

Richard Mosse's “The Enclave,” 2012-13, was filmed in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mr. Mosse used infrared surveillance photography to depict the violent rebellion there and show the suffering and destruction that people in the West were ignoring.CreditRyan Young for The New York Times

In the San Francisco townhouse, the art is placed everywhere you turn, in spaces public and private. Snaking up the staircase is Dara Birnbaum’s five-channel video installation of news coverage of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. Holding forth in the master bedroom is a Reinhard Mucha work of 1994-5 that features a cheap equipment stand for a 16-millimeter film projector, its speakers duct-taped to the poles. The projector beams a looped video of Mucha’s toddler son repeating the word “auto,” opposite a light box image of the artist as a young boy. “It made us think about our family histories and how important our relations are with our children,” Ms. Kramlich remarked.

Owning a time-based media work poses extraordinary exhibition and conservation demands that the Kramlichs fully appreciated only as they moved forward. In 1997, recognizing the dearth of institutional support for this kind of art, they established the New Art Trust, which they run in concert with three museums — the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Tate — and to which they have promised 35 art works as gifts.


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Marina Abramović’s “Cleaning the Mirror #1,” 1995, a five-channel video installation, shows bones being washed and alludes to the killings in the Balkans at that time. Video by Marina Abramovic, via Sean Kelly Gallery/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York; Ryan Young for The New York Times

Marina Abramović’s “Cleaning the Mirror #1,” 1995, a five-channel video installation, shows bones being washed and alludes to the killings in the Balkans at that time. Video by Marina Abramovic, via Sean Kelly Gallery/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York; Ryan Young for The New York Times

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