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Make Art, Not War

How curator Cheryl Haines orchestrated an international art show in the Presidio’s disused military buildings.

 The bunkers at Fort Winfield Scott.

 

San Francisco won the lottery in 1987. That’s when gallerist and curator Cheryl Haines, the mind behind the 2014 Ai Weiwei Alcatraz takeover @Large, moved into town. Now she’s at it again with Home Land Security, an exhibition of 16 contemporary artists examining national security that’s housed in the derelict batteries dotting the western edge of the Presidio (Sept. 10–Dec. 18). As always with an exhibition of this size, it was no easy feat. We asked Haines what it took to pull it together.

1. Shipping and handling
The art world can be cutthroat, sure, but for this project, Haines had to dig into the world of trade sanctions while coordinating international shipping—including through Iran. Haines insists it’s gotten easier since the nuclear deal went through, but it still took a month of diplomacy.

2. Building restoration
Haines, along with the National Park Service, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, and the Presidio Trust, also had to make the bunkers of Fort Winfield Scott, shuttered since 1956, ready for the public. That meant adding electricity, Wi-Fi, accessibility, and onsite art docents.

3. Racing the clock
For-Site, Haines’s nonprofit, only started planning this show in January, but it was nonetheless included in the centennial celebration of the national parks. Yet compared with @Large, Haines considers Home Land Security a cakewalk. “We now know how to deal with the historic fabric of buildings,” the gallerist says. “We also have the same point people in each department, and there’s a wonderful familiarity between all of us.”


Originally published in the September issue of
San Francisco

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