Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis, Missouri opened in 2001 with a building designed by internationally renowned Japanese architect, Tadao Ando. The Pulitzer is located at 3716 Washington Boulevard (between Grand Boulevard and Spring Avenue).
Pulitzer Arts Foundation was established in 2001 by Emily Rauh Pulitzer, who—together with her husband Joseph Pulitzer Jr.—had originally sought to create a space in which to install works from their private collection. The Pulitzers reached out to Tadao Ando in the early 1990s and commissioned him to renovate an abandoned automobile factory and showroom in the Grand Center entertainment district of St. Louis. During the design phase of this project, Joseph Jr. died, and the project was not realized. Emily Rauh Pulitzer returned to the idea for a foundation in 1993, and approached Ando about constructing what would become his first freestanding public building in the United States.
The inaugural exhibition at the Pulitzer opened in October 2001, and featured a selection of works from the Pulitzers’ private collections, including artwork by Roy Lichtenstein, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko, Kiki Smith, and Andy Warhol. Beginning with the second exhibition, Selected Works by Ellsworth Kelly from St. Louis Collections, Pulitzer Arts Foundation extended the scope of its exhibitions to include works outside of the family’s private collection, and this practice has driven nearly all subsequent exhibitions.
Operating under the name The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts from 2001 to 2014, Pulitzer Arts Foundation has presented a variety of exhibitions including groups shows of minimalist art, Buddhist art, Old Masters, and contemporary themes, as well as solo exhibitions of Dan Flavin, Ann Hamilton, Gordon Matta-Clark, Richard Serra, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and others. To foster an alternative encounter with art, works at the Pulitzer are installed without the wall labels found in traditional museums.
Completed in October 2001, Pulitzer Arts Foundation was the first public building in North America to be designed by architect Tadao Ando, who won the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1995. The building is characterized by Ando’s longstanding attention to natural elements such as light and water, as well as his signature use of concrete, which was poured in place during a nearly four-year construction period that utilized advanced techniques and processes which were uncommon in America at the time. The building has been described as “both a serene setting for the contemplation of art and a contribution toward revitalizing the urban landscape of historic St. Louis.”
According to architectural historian William J.R. Curtis, “Ando’s elongated rectangles and sliding planes contribute to a dynamic ensemble in which voids and solids interact. The experience of moving through the building involves a circuitous route through spaces of various mood and intensity. One passes through visible and invisible layers, and there are unexpected dramas of light and shade, as well as controlled views to the outside.”
In June 2014, it was announced that the building would undergo an expansion project that would renovate storage and office spaces in the existing lower level to create two new public galleries. In consultation with Ando and his office, the Pulitzer increased the public space in the building from 6,800 square feet to roughly 10,400 square feet. The Pulitzer reopened on May 1, 2015, with three concurrent solo exhibitions of artists Alexander Calder, Fred Sandback and Richard Tuttle.
Pulitzer Arts Foundation is a non-collecting institution, with only three works of art permanently on view. Ellsworth Kelly’s Blue Black is a vertical wall sculpture installed beneath a skylight in the building’s main gallery. Richard Serra’s Joe is the first in the artist’s series of torqued spirals of Cor-Ten weathering steel, and is installed in the courtyard to the west of the building. The works by Kelly and Serra were commissioned for the Pulitzer by Emily Rauh Pulitzer and were installed before the building opened.
The artists collaborated with Mrs. Pulitzer and Tadao Ando on the installation of their works, of which Ando writes: “Into the spaces that I created with form, material, and light, Ellsworth Kelly and Richard Serra brought their own expression, conceiving a space for art that could exist only there.” After opening to the public, the Pulitzer also acquired a sculpture by artist Scott Burton, Rock Settee, which is installed facing the building’s reflecting pool.
The Pulitzer engages in a variety of public programs that directly relate to the exhibition on view. These include symposia, panel discussions, architectural tours, performances, poetry readings, and a variety of student initiatives and events. Additionally, the Pulitzer is engaged in an ongoing collaborative chamber concert series of contemporary music with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. Concert programs are chosen based on their relationship to the artworks exhibited.
In January 2014, the Pulitzer launched Reset, a week-long programming series that occurred during a period between exhibitions. Beginning with the installation of a site-specific, temporary floor and wall sculpture by artist David Scanavino, the programs included a variety of interactive and participatory events including a breakdancing competition, yoga, family activities, and a drag show. Reset also included a Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra performance of the U.S. premiere of John Cage’s “Thirty Pieces for Five Orchestras,” a work which the Los Angeles Times referred to as “the most significant American orchestral work never played in America.”
The Pulitzer has a history of developing projects and programs aimed at engaging local communities and inviting participation from a wide variety of individuals and groups.
Working in close collaboration with Prison Performing Arts and the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, the Pulitzer developed a program that invited homeless veterans and formerly incarcerated individuals into the galleries over several weeks for a program that included arts education, theatrical training, and employment counseling. The participants developed a script based on their responses to the exhibition on view, and the program culminated with a public performance that invited audience members to see the artwork through their eyes and experiences. Staging was first developed during the exhibition Ideal (Dis-) Placements: Old Masters at the Pulitzer (2008–09), with a second iteration during Reflections of the Buddha (2011–12).
In 2014, the Pulitzer launched PXSTL, a joint project with the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis. The first iteration of PXSTL, entitled Lots envisioned an empty lot across from the Pulitzer as a site for community activity and public access to the arts. After a national design-build competition, Freecell Architecture was selected to create a temporary structure for performances and gatherings. The Pulitzer distributed individual grants to people and groups within St. Louis to develop programs for the space, including dance, music, photography, food, and meditation.
In collaboration with Ballroom Marfa and The Public Concern Foundation, the Pulitzer hosted Marfa Dialogues / St. Louis in the summer of 2014 for a citywide event and experiment looking at the intersection of artistic practice, climate change science, and civic engagement. Over five days, a series of public programs brought together artists, designers, scientists, activists, and organizations from across the country, including Mary Miss, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Jenny Kendler, the Saint Louis Science Center, and others.
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