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.
Over the last three decades, the couple, married for 37 years, have assembled an unsurpassed collection of time-based media art — video, film, photographic slides, audio and computer art that unfold to a viewer over time. Because much of the work demands large, uncompromising exhibition spaces, the collection inevitably outgrew their 1927 home. To display and live with the art, they commissioned a three-level weekend house from Herzog & de Meuron, the Pritzker Prize-winning architecture firm best known for the Tate Modern in London.
Although there are a handful of other serious collectors of video art, the Kramlichs have opted to incorporate their holdings into their daily lives. “What makes Pam and Dick’s house and collection unique is the way they integrated it,” said Chrissie Iles, a curator at the Whitney Museum.