Is Collector Paul Allen’s Brand New Seattle Art Space Already Closing?

It's been a tough month for the billionaire collector.

Allen Institute. Photo courtesy of the Allen Institute.

It’s been a rough few weeks for big-time art collector Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft. First he crashed his mega-yacht into a coral reef, and now Seattle blog the Stranger reports that Allen’s brand new arts nonprofit, Pivot Art + Culture, will soon be converted into a restaurant or high-end retail space.

The Stranger cites “sources close to Pivot” and claims that the contemporary art center has “officially laid off its staff.” The gallery first opened its doors December 5, but even before then there were signs of trouble. Though the project was only announced in July, by early December there were rumors that the plan was to close the institution in March.

In an e-mail to artnet News, a Vulcan spokesperson called the Stranger blog post “pure speculation and inaccurate,” saying “no decisions have been made about how the space will be used next. We’ll share an update once a decision has been made.”

Paul Allen at the premiere of <em>Interstellar</em> in 2014. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

Paul Allen at the premiere of Interstellar in 2014.
Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

Pivot’s inaugural exhibition, “Figure in Process: de Kooning to Kapoor, 1955-2015,” which opened on December 5 and is curated by modern art historian David Anfam, who recently testified in the Knoedler trial, features works by artists including Chuck Close, Lucian Freud, Willem de Kooning, and Roy Lichtenstein. Although the show was praised by the Seattle Times as “one of the most impressive first acts in Seattle art history,” no additional programming has been announced for the space, and there are no events listed on the institution’s website after February 28.

Despite being touted as an arts venue that would host five to six exhibitions a year, Pivot is now described as a “concept space” on the organization website. Allen reportedly spent $5 million remodeling its space at the Allen Brain Institute with the expressed purpose of hosting museum-quality exhibitions. It appears that Allen’s commitment to the venture has been short-lived.

Even if Pivot goes under, Allen still has his other big Seattle-based art venture, the newly-founded Seattle Art Fair, which enjoyed a successful inaugural edition in July. Selections from his collection are also the subject of the travelling exhibition “Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection,” opening February 6 at the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC.

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