Shortly after philanthropist Pamela Joyner and her husband, Fred Giuffrida, a venture capitalist, began amassing their seminal African-American art collection, it became apparent that wall space would soon be at a premium. . Instead of worrying about it, they decided not to let it dissuade them from carrying out a business that changes history.
Tucked away in Presidio Terrace, one of San Francisco’s wealthiest residential enclaves, the couple’s four-story home is filled from floor to ceiling with nearly 150 rooms from an ever-growing ensemble of more than 400 works. Fifteen years ago, when they purchased the 1909 Neo-Georgian residence, Joyner hired local architect Dan Phipps to rehabilitate the bones of the 10,000 square foot house. They also recruited Houston-based designer Philip Sheffield to help streamline his interiors. “What we sit on at home now depends on what hangs on the walls,” Joyner explains. “I feel like I’m constantly redecorating, especially because I have to get rid of furniture or weirdly reconfigure it. Illustrating the dilemma, she points out how many beds are placed against windows to free up valuable wall space.
“It’s also fair to say that there are a few rooms that just don’t physically fit into the house,” Giuffrida adds. “But this house is part of our mission, so we tried to get representation from all the artists here.” This mission was to design a course correction to open up the canon of art history to artists of color who have been overlooked or need to be properly contextualized. “If you were a transformational artist who turned out to be black and you were excluded because of your race, this is the definition of a social justice problem that needs to be rectified,” says Joyner, administrator of the San Francisco Museum of Modern. Art, the J. Paul Getty Trust, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
In 2016, their pursuit was chronicled in the heavy Four Generations: The Joyner / Giuffrida Abstract Art Collection (Gregory R. Miller & Co.), which has since been updated to incorporate a number of new works. This book served as the introduction to “Solidary & Solitary: The Joyner / Giuffrida Collection,” a traveling exhibition that debuted the following year at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans. Subsequently, he visited four more establishments before returning home at the end of last year.
In the late 1990s, when Joyner started collecting, she first became familiar with black abstraction, and the narrative and aesthetic were appealing. “After meeting art historian and curator Lowery Sims, I realized there was a problem to be solved, so I started with careers like this,” she recalls. Ten years ago Joyner and Giuffrida started expanding their portfolio to include the entire African diaspora and last year they started to focus particularly on Afro-Brazilian artists. “Brazil is such a complex society that considers itself post-racial, but there are so many artists of color who have never been considered part of the mainstream there – Rubem Valentim and Emanoel Araujo are two of those touchstones for us. “