Courtesy of 500 Capp Street Foundation

‘David Ireland is perhaps the most influential West Coast artist you’ve never heard of,’ says Yale University Art Gallery director Jock Reynolds of the San Francisco conceptualist. If you lived near the Mission District in the latter part of last century, however, you might be familiar with 500 Capp Street, the dilapidated Italianate home Ireland transformed into a living artwork before his death in 2009. The epicentre of the local art scene, the house was also considered one of the most significant contemporary artworks in the Bay Area.

This week, the 500 Capp Street Foundation announced it will reopen the address next year as San Francisco’s ‘first historic artist’s house’. Believing no material was too lowly to be repurposed in the name of art, the artist infused his work with the ephemera of everyday life: jars filled with sawdust after sanding the floors; old slices of bread pinned to the walls like butterflies. These and thousands of additional works will remain in situ.

Living room, 500 Capp Street. Courtesy of 500 Capp Street Foundation
Courtesy of 500 Capp Street Foundation

Developed in collaboration with Jensen Architects and ARG Conservation Services, the renovation work will restore the fabric of the building, while improving access and the conditions for the art. Jensen principal Dean Orr says, ‘The finishes inside the house are so incredibly delicate, not even a hammer could be used.’

The living artwork will continue to evolve. ‘David actively curated 500 Capp Street while he was alive, and we have no intention of placing a bell jar over it now,’ explains art collector and patron Carlie Wilmans, who purchased the building in 2008. ‘As a teacher and mentor, he opened his home to many younger artists. The residency program will continue that tradition, remaining a vital catalyst for artistic dialogue and providing resources and inspiration for generations of artists to come.’

Catch glimpses of the building’s restoration as it happens on Instagram.

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