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Ruby City: collector Linda Pace's dream museum becomes reality in Texas

Wizard of Oz vision inspires new $15m contemporary art centre in San Antonio designed by David Adjaye

The jewel-like red building preserves the legacy of the late Linda Pace, the Texan hot-sauce heiress, collector and artist Dror Baldinger; courtesy of Ruby City and Adjaye Associates

In 2007, the Texas hot-sauce heiress, collector and artist Linda Pace awakened from a dream dominated by a glowing red structure that reminded her of the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz, albeit in a different hue. Quickly she grabbed a pad and sketched a vivid image.

“She was very into dream analysis,” says Kelly O’Connor, the head of collections for Ruby City, a new free-entry contemporary art centre inspired by the dream that opens on 13 October in San Antonio, Texas. “She studied a lot of Karl Jung and made her dreams a part of her art practice by drawing inspiration from them.”

Before dying of cancer a few months later, Pace shared her sketch with the British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye, entrusting him to design a red building to house her contemporary art collection. In line with her final instructions, a foundation bearing her name and overseeing her collection has drawn on an endowment to finance the $15m project, which also incorporates a one-acre green space and the Studio, an auxiliary exhibition site.

“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 and connecting to the San Antonio landscape,” Adjaye said in a statement. Enclosed in red precast concrete made in Mexico City and measuring almost 14,500 sq. ft, the art centre is the architect’s first building in Texas and the only venue in San Antonio dedicated exclusively to contemporary art.

Linda Pace amassed a collection of works by artists such as Kiki Smith, Do Ho Suh and Wangechi Mutu Todd Johnson; courtesy of Ruby City

Beyond Pace’s dream, a source for inspiration for Adjaye was the region’s Mission architecture. The bottom half of the building’s exterior is smooth, allowing people to rub their hands along the surface. The upper half is rougher and studded with hundreds of tiny pieces of red glass, so that the building shimmers in the evening light.

Two-thirds of the interior is devoted to exhibition galleries featuring paintings, sculptures, installations and video works by artists including Jennifer Steinkamp, Kiki Smith, Do Ho Suh and Wangechi Mutu from Pace’s collection.

The institution is presenting three inaugural exhibitions: Waking Dream (until 2022), a mix of contemporary pieces emphasising core strengths of the collection, as well as works by Pace and other San Antonio artists; Isaac Julien: Playtime (until August 2020), an immersive 2014 video installation adressing the theme of global capital; and Jewels in the Concrete (until April 2020), inspired by a dream that Pace recounted in her biography.