Restoration in Progress for David Ireland House

Photo by Lydia Chávez

The late conceptual artist David Ireland’s home on Capp and 20th Street is getting its windows restored. (An earlier version said incorrectly that the house would be getting new windows.)

Jessica Roux of the 500 Capp St. Foundation wrote in saying that the windows will be reinstalled in October “and will be the same windows that were original to the building.”

She also sent in this wonderful photograph of the interior of the house.

Courtesy of the Capp Street Foundation.

Courtesy of the Capp Street Foundation.

If you don’t know about Ireland’s history in the Mission, here’s the snippet from our map on Mission art history. 

“If it looks like art, it can’t be,” was one of the mantras of the genial conceptual artist who lived in and selectively restored 500 Capp Street, which he bought in 1975 from an accordion maker. (You can still see his sign in the front window.)

One of Ireland’s first art projects began with a notice from the city to repair the sidewalk in front of 500 Capp, according to Karen Tsujimoto, the curator at the Oakland Museum. Once Ireland started the process, he noticed that he had to make the same choices an artist would make. Soon he was sanding floors and stripping old windows. Ireland said working on an old plaster wall was like working on fresco, Tsujimoto said.
Ireland died in 2009, but early in 2005, when preservationists feared it would be lost as an art treasure, Carlie Wilmans, a trustee of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and California College of the Arts purchased the home to maintain it as an artistic institution. Conservation work on the building will keep it closed until December 2015. Part of the house will be converted into a studio space for artist residencies. A book on the history and context of Ireland’s house will be published in March 2015.

The 500 Capp Street Foundation also sent in this short update on the house:

SAN FRANCISCO – Along the 20th Street corridor in San Francisco’s Mission District lies one of city’s best kept secrets: 500 Capp Street. Behind the solemn gray exterior of the home is a vibrant interior of glistening saffron-yellow walls highlighting every nuance of the architecture and history of the space. The effect is the result of thirty years of work by the late David Ireland: artist, co-founder of the Capp Street Project artist residency and key figure in the Bay Area’s Conceptual Art movement.

An intensive conservation and construction effort will begin August 12th by a team assembled by the 500 Capp Street Foundation. When 500 Capp Street reopens it will become the latest arts organization to join the culturally dense Mission District. 500 Capp Street will provide the Bay Area community not only with public access to the house, but also a study center and archive for Ireland’s works, as well as an artist-in-residency program. Led by Director Carlie Wilmans, this project has been in development since the Foundation’s establishment in 2009. The project’s goals support the Foundation’s mission to preserve the home of David Ireland. The home will be set on a new concrete foundation, Ireland’s work on the interior will be stabilized, the exterior will be restored using lead-free paint, an elevator will be installed to provide more universal access to the house, and a study center, gallery space and an outdoor terrace will be added to provide a place for community events.

The 500 Capp Street Foundation has partnered with Jensen Architects, the award winning Bay Area firm that designed the SFMoMA Rooftop Sculpture Garden, to create a innovative concept for the new study center and terrace that will utilize all aspects of the property to create a fuller community and visitor experience while maintaining the artistic and historical integrity of the property. Architectural Resources Group, having just completed the structural restoration of Coit Tower, will restore the interior surfaces to their original appearance when David completed the home in 1978. While the work on the home has only begun this month it has already received recognition, receiving the honor of “Best of Design: Preservation” by 7×7 Magazine in 2014.

When Ireland purchased the Italianate style home at 500 Capp Street in 1975, little did he know what it would evolve into. Upon taking ownership of the house, David began implementing a ‘maintenance action’ plan on the home: removing window moldings, stripping wallpaper, sanding all surfaces, then coating the walls, ceiling and floors with high-gloss polyurethane varnish. The varnish sealed the cracks and changes of the home, elucidating an elaborate visual history of 500 Capp Street. 

During Ireland’s 30 years of living at 500 Capp Street, he continued to blur the line between art and life, a practice that became the hallmark of his work. The result, now preserved by the 500 Capp Street Foundation, is considered by many to be the centerpiece of David Ireland’s prolific career. As he put it in a 2002 interview, ”I was going to gut my house to be a studio, a living studio one floor down and then up. Then I got into the house and saw it not in an architectural way, but in a sculptural way, which really was about sculpture the way I was completing it and cleaning it up and urethaning the walls and doing things. That satisfied me. But I also had to do what every artist at some time has to do, and that is maintain your own life.” 

David Ireland’s work is featured in collections of prominent institutions, including The Museum of Modern Art, The Smithsonian, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. Ireland’s work is influenced heavily by his his travels in Africa and his studies in printmaking and industrial arts at Oakland’s California College of Arts and Crafts (now California College of the Arts), but 500 Capp Street served as his primary source for material and inspiration.

The construction and restoration project will take approximately 15-months to complete. During this time, the 500 Capp Street Foundation will continue to develop an artist-in-residency program, one of the most meaningful programs to the Foundation. For Director Carlie Wilmans, this program embodies the spirit of Ireland and 500 Capp Street by providing resources for the next generation of artists and continuing the evolution of the 500 Capp Street collection: ““David was a teacher and mentor to many artists. He opened his home up to them. The experience of having tea in one of the beautiful parlors served as inspiration, and often resulted in the creation of artworks that made their way back to 500 Capp Street. David proudly displayed many of these alongside his own work. Through our Artist-in-Residency program, we hope to continue that tradition, add to the collection, and enrich the curatorial and visitor experience. David actively curated his home, so we have no intention of placing a bell jar over the house. The house will remain a dynamic and vital space for ongoing artistic dialogue.”

The 500 Capp Street Foundation

The 500 Capp Street Foundation was established in 2009 to preserve and make accessible the home of the late Bay Area conceptual artist David Ireland. In addition to preserving the property, the Foundation plans an Artist in Residency Program, a 500 Capp Street Public Program, and an permanent archive of the work of David Ireland, including personal papers, various publications and the entire body of his paintings, sculptures, and works on paper.

Project Team: 

Project Architect: Jensen Architects

Construction Manager: Oliver & Co.

Project Conservators: Architectural Resources Group

500 Capp Street Foundation Board of Directors: Ann Hatch, Jock Reynolds, and Carlie Wilmans

Filed under: Mobile, SNAPS, Today's Mission

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