Art

Exclusive: Bay Area couple gifts $1 million to new Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco

Pamela and David Hornik with their dog, Teddy, in front of a portrait by Jiab Prachakul. Photo: Annie Barnett Photography

The Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco announced an unrestricted gift of $1 million to the new museum from venture capitalist David Hornik and philanthropist Pamela Hornik on Monday, July 18. The gift places the couple in the top tier of founding donors to the institution, along with givers including Minnesota Street Project Foundation founders Andy Rappaport and Deborah Rappaport, and Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger and Kaitlyn Krieger.

Since announcing its establishment in September 2021, the non-collecting museum has come to be seen as a rare arts organization that has managed to attract significant philanthropy from the venture capital and technology worlds in the Bay Area. Other founding members of the ICA San Francisco include startup investors and collectors Wayee Chu and Ethan Beard; Rsquared Communication founder Rebecca Reeve Henderson and Slack Technologies co-founder Cal Henderson; arts philanthropist Susan Swig; and Dr. Martha Muña and Kindred Ventures founder Kanyi Maqubela.

“The money is being used for all the things it takes to start a museum,” said Alison Gass, the director of ICA San Francisco. “When you’re starting an institution, you don’t always know where all the costs will be, especially with construction and ambitious opening exhibition schedules. David and Pamela have been incredible founding members who have already committed to underwriting curator Christine Koppes’ position for three years; Now this unrestricted gift is coming when we need it the most.”

The museum plans to open its doors in the fall with shows by artists Jeffrey Gibson, Elizabeth Hernández and Ryan Whelan, and guest curators Tahirah Rasheed and Autumn Breon.

The exterior of the under-construction Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco on Minnesota Street. Photo: Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle 2021

“It’s not that often that the opportunity comes along to be involved at the inception, the very start of a museum,” Pamela Hornik told The Chronicle. “That opportunity, and my connection to Ali going back to our time together when she was a curator there, was irresistible.”

“Even though it’s a cliche when you’re a VC, I do think that there’s an opportunity here for innovation, reinvention and thinking anew about what an exciting museum is,” David Hornik said. “Or asking, ‘What even is a museum?’ That’s something everyone started to rethink after 2020..”

David Hornik is a founding partner of San Francisco firm Lobby Capital. Pamela Hornik serves on the director’s advisory board at the Cantor Arts Center and the management committee at the Anderson Collection, both at Stanford University, and is a trustee at the Berkeley Art Museum Pacific Film Archive. Over the past decade, the Palo Alto couple have become well known in the museum and gallery scene in the Bay Area as collectors with particular interest in supporting the work of up-and-coming artists from diverse backgrounds.

Berkeley artist Lava Thomas said she was not surprised by news of the gift to the ICA San Francisco.

Pamela and David Hornik with their dog, Teddy. Photo: Annie Barnett Photography

“The Horniks are an important part of the Bay Area arts ecosystem and have been incredibly supportive communities, not only to my own career, but to many artists, especially from marginalized and artists of color,” said Thomas, who also said that their support goes beyond collecting and includes underwriting exhibitions and catalogs, and lending and donating work to institutions. The Horniks recently supported the exhibition “The Artist’s Eye: Tammy Rae Carland, David Huffman, Lava Thomas, John Zurier” at BAMPFA, which Thomas co-curated.

Presently, the Horniks estimate that “at least a half dozen” works from their collection are on loan to institutions across the United States. Among the artists represented are Amir H. Fallah, LJ Roberts, Carrie Mae Weems, Wesaam Al-Badry, Mickalene Thomas, Jordan Casteel, John Sonsini and Joel Daniel Phillips. Their giving history includes support of exhibitions at the San José Museum of Art, the Institute of Contemporary Art San José (which is not connected to ICA SF), the Palo Alto Art Center and the Museum of the African Diaspora. In September, the Horniks are also set to be the sole funders of “Rescuers: Portraits of Moral Courage in the Holocaust,” featuring portraits by photographer Gay Block at the Jack Fischer Gallery.

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