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Art & Soul

BY Angela Ashman and Casey Hatfield-Chiotti | November 30, 2017 | Feature Features National

San Diego's dynamic art scene is anchored by an expansive contemporary art museum, enthusiastic collectors and donors who believe in placing art in the public domain. Here's a look at the people, places and pieces making our city a major force in the international art community.
Jaume Plensa's “Pacific Soul”

THE PUBLIC WORK
Jaume Plensa beckons global art lovers to step inside his monumental ode to diversity.

Jaume Plensa, the Barcelona-based sculptor responsible for works such as “Echo”—the 44-foot-high head of a girl that towers over New York’s Madison Square Park—first visited San Diego eight or nine years ago. “I was fascinated with the city,” he recalls. “It has so many things in common with mine.” When the opportunity arose for him to do a project with BOSA, a development company building an upscale residential tower downtown, he didn’t hesitate. “When you fall in love with a place, you dream to do a project there, but you have to wait for the invitation,” he says. Plensa’s “Pacific Soul” will be completed at the Pacific Gate mixed-use development near the Embarcadero this month. The 25-foot-tall crouching stainless steel person is made up of characters in eight different alphabets: Latin, Hebrew, Greek, Cyrillic, Arabic, Japanese, Chinese and Hindi. “It reflects the diversity in the community,” Plensa says. The letters are elongated at the base, giving them the appearance of roots. The artwork, which took over a year to fabricate, is painted a brilliant white to reflect the West Coast light. Plensa, who has won multiple awards over the last three decades, including the National Art Award of Catalonia, has sculptures in Barcelona, Seoul, Tokyo and Miami. Plensa knows many passersby will stop and snap photos of the sculpture. “Pacific Soul” will also include an opening in the front large enough to allow visitors to walk in. Plensa says he hopes people will interact with the piece and even use it as a gathering place: “When the piece is really working, people are adopting it and embracing it in normal life.” –Casey Hatfield-Chiotti

THE UP-AND-COMING COLLECTORS
A growing collection inspired Matt and Nancy Brower to build a livable gallery to house it.

Matt and Nancy Browar vividly recall the first time they laid eyes on a John McLaughlin painting. “We loved the simplicity,” recalls Nancy, a trustee at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla. They purchased the undervalued 1966 oil on canvas—three white and blue rectangles on a yellow background—at Art Basel in Miami. McLaughlin, a self-taught artist who painted minimalist artworks in Dana Point in the mid-20th century, is considered one of the most important American abstract painters of the postwar period, but received little recognition in his lifetime. “I think if he had been in New York, it would have been a different story,” says Matt. Not wanting their home to look like a “McLaughlin store,” as Nancy puts it, they also collect a number of other prominent artists, including John McCracken, Carl Andre, Josef Albers and Kenneth Noland, and now live in a home designed in 2015 by the architect Bill Hayer, whose clean lines and ocean views provide an ideal showcase for the collection. The Browars believe strongly in art being available for public consumption. Matt, a successful developer, spearheads the Murals of La Jolla. “It levels the playing field for people interested in art. It’s open to everyone,” says Matt, a sentiment that signals their intention for their own collection, which the Browars intend one day to make available to the public. –CH

Photography Courtesy Of: