Named after the late Governor Dolph Briscoe, the new Briscoe Western Art Museum opens Saturday. At a preview this week, Executive Director Steven Karr welcomed members of the press:
"I stand here with you in the historic lobby of the former Central Library of the city of San Antonio…now the Briscoe Western Art Museum.”
That re-imagined former library is 58,000 square feet filled with 700 art and artifacts of the southwest of old, as well as contemporary art.
Standing in the lobby, Karr remarked that the room "is about 90% of what it looked like when this library opened in 1930.”
The lobby is colorfully restored, and leads visitors either to the upper exhibitions, and to newer spaces designed by Lake/Flato Architects. An enormous bronze statue dominates the lobby and shows a Native American with a river of cascading buffalo heads on one side, and a cowboy over a river of descending longhorns on the other.
“[The statue] tells a story of the west," Karr explains. "It doesn’t tell THE story of the American west, but it’s a beautiful piece of art and in many respects speaks to the type of institution the Briscoe is, and the Briscoe aspires to be.”
Karr also offered that the Briscoe Center’s objectives are “…to create a conversation about history, about art, about architecture, about the culture of this region, the culture of the west, and the culture of San Antonio.”
The three-level downtown Museum backs up to the cypress-lined River walk, and features paintings, sculptures, a 17th century saddle, and Santa Anna’s sword. Meeting spaces and a stone and landscaped to-be-filled sculpture garden round out the one and a quarter acre Briscoe, which opens Saturday.