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Michael Webb
writes on modern architecture, design, and travel. He is the author of 26 books, most recently Modernist Paradise: Niemeyer House, Boyd Collection (Rizzoli) and Venice CA: Art +Architecture in a Maverick Community (Abrams). He travels widely in search of new and classic modern architecture and contributes to magazines around the world. Michael lives in the Neutra apartment that Charles and Ray Eames once called home.

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« FORM on Design: Drawings in Houston | Main | Book Review: Masterly Survey of a Master Architect »
Tuesday
Feb252014

FORM Culture: Architecture for Art

p>Frederick Fisher carved the new Marc Selwyn Fine Art space out of a former auto body shop in Beverly Hills. Image courtesy, Marc Selwyn Fine Art. By Michael Webb

At a time when many architects are using and abusing parametrics to create look-at-me buildings, Frederick Fisher stays true to his principles. For the past 30 years he has been crafting spaces for the creation and display of art and they are often so understated as to go unremarked. Artists and gallerists know that he will make them look good, and his range of accomplishment is unmatched—from PS 1 in New York and the Colby Museum extension in Maine, to the Huntington in Pasadena and an art space for the Otis Institute. He transformed a decrepit tram depot into Bergamot Station, and designed several of its gallery interiors, in addition to a dozen more he has done across LA.

Marc Selwyn Fine Art in Beverly Hills is the third space he has designed for this gallerist, and it’s a model of adaptive reuse. Somehow a 1940s auto body shop survived untouched amid the smart boutiques and restaurants on Little Santa Monica Boulevard. Marc and Jane Nathanson, who own the property, are passionate collectors so they were happy to have a friend and fellow spirit give the decaying facility a new life. It’s a homecoming for Selwyn who is a native of Beverly Hills, and was a west coast director for Sotheby’s, and Pace Wildenstein, before opening his first space in a five-year partnership with gallerist Anthony Grant.

Fisher stripped the interior and laid a new floor slab, but preserved the rough brick façade and the bow-truss roof vault. Within the shell, one white space flows into another. A square central gallery is lit from a skylight and seems to float between the loading area and private viewing room. “Count Panza told me that the perfect gallery is a white shoe box,” the architect recalls, “and it has more wall space in relation to its area than a square room.” But that was what Selwyn wanted and the artworks he has displayed there for his inaugural—by Mel Bochner, Richard Misrach, Robert Heinecken and Allen Ruppersberg—have never looked better. “Simplicity isn’t an easy thing to achieve,” Fisher remarks, and he had to conceal the roof insulation, calibrate the plan, and tweak the proportions of the interior to achieve this ideal fusion of old and new.

Marc Selwyn Fine Art, 9953 South Santa Monica Blvd; marcselwynfineart.com.

Read more about 2013 AIA|LA Gold Medal Winner Frederick Fisher and his career in FORM's January/February print edition coming soon. 

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