Visiting Ruby City in San Antonio

Visiting Ruby City in San Antonio should be on every art lover’s “to-do” list when in Texas. The museum is a testament to the will and vision of one woman: Linda Pace.

Linda Pace will never see Ruby City with her own eyes. She did see it clearly in her mind.

Thanks to that vision, Ruby City opened in San Antonio, Texas on October 13, 2019. The contemporary art museum showcases Pace’s collection, including selections of her own work.

Pace succumbed to breast cancer in 2007 at 62. Shortly before passing, the vision of a home for her world-class contemporary art collection came to her in a dream. In red.

The color red was a through line in Pace’s life, from the Pace Picante sauce developed by her father which created the family fortune, to the rich, vibrant reds defining her own artwork.

“I think she would be so thrilled,” Kelly O’Connor, a former studio assistant for Pace and an employee of the Linda Pace Foundation for almost 14 years, said of the completed project.

Ruby City a marvel inside and out

Ruby City has 14,472-square-feet dedicated to providing a space for the city’s thriving creative community to experience works by both local and internationally acclaimed artists. More than 900 paintings, sculptures, installations and video pieces are on view with free admission to the public.

The artistry of the building equals what’s displayed inside.

Designed by renowned architect Sir David Adjaye OBE, who is also responsible for the design of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture, the exterior skin consists of a precast concrete fabricated in Mexico City and imbued with a rich red color. The interior entrance and lobby have also been constructed in the same crimson hue, preserving Pace’s original vision of a “ruby city.”

The first ten feet from the ground up has concrete with a polished finish, smooth to the touch; above, the concrete wall is rough, sharp, encrusted with two hues of red glass. The building appears to be an angular, sparkling rock sheared at the level of human interaction.

“My goal was to translate Linda’s idea into a building that will do justice to her legacy,” Adjaye said. “It is a tremendous responsibility and one that is dear to my heart.”

Ruby City exterior. DROR BALDINGER FAIA

Ruby City becomes the most recent of Pace’s many contributions to San Antonio’s arts community.

In 1993, she founded Artpace San Antonio, a nonprofit residency program which supports regional, national and international artists in the creation of new art to this day. Her foundation was formed in 2003, guided by Pace’s conviction that contemporary art is essential to a dynamic society. The Foundation continues acquiring new work echoing the themes and character of Pace’s own collecting, reflecting a feminist perspective, engaging in social issues and considering aspects of spirituality and beauty.

“What was really interesting about her as a collector, it wasn’t about collecting these objects, there was a lot about nurturing relationships with the artist, so there’s several artists in her collection that she could call her friend,” O’Connor said.

Isaac Julien and Wangechi Mutu are two of the many artists who fall into this category with work on view at Ruby City.

Linda Pace artwork

“Linda really didn’t find her voice as an artist until age 55,” O’Connor said. “That’s when she created her first really iconic work, 2001, and I think that’s really inspiring; a lot of us think our 30s are our peak, but really, she was most prolific later in her life.”

Installation view of ‘Waking Dream,’ featuring Linda Pace, ‘Red Project,’ 2001. Red found objects on wooden panels. 96 x 96 in. 

Visiting Ruby City

Ruby City is located at 150 Camp Street, San Antonio, TX 78204. Admission to Ruby City is always free. Visit the museum’s website for updated hours and events.

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