San Antonio Museum of Art


In the early 1970s, the growth of the Association`s fine art collections led the Trustees to consider securing new space for the art collection. Plans were initiated to purchase the historic Lone Star Brewery complex for conversion into the San Antonio Museum of Art. The buildings were acquired in the 1970s. Following a $7.2 million renovation, the Museum of Art was opened to the public in March of 1981. Funding for the renovation was secured through grants from the Economic Development Administration, the City of San Antonio and a number of private individuals and foundations. A National Endowment for the Arts challenge grant helped establish the operating endowment. At its outset, the Museum of Art emphasized the art of the Americas including pre-Columbian, Spanish Colonial and Latin American folk art. Included as well were eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth century American and European paintings, photography, sculpture and decorative arts. In 1985, the Museum received the unparalleled collections of Latin American Folk Art formed by former Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller and Robert K. Winn, establishing it at the forefront of American institutions collecting in this area. Major gifts from the late Gilbert M. Denman, Jr. and the acquisition of the Stark-Willson Collection established a comprehensive collection of Egyptian, Greek and Roman art. The museum now has one of the largest collections of art of the ancient Mediterranean world in the southern United States. In the 1990s, Museum Trustees Walter F. and Lenora Brown began donating what has grown to over 500 Asian objects, mostly Chinese ceramics. This collection of Asian art now forms one of the finest Asian collections in the nation. These major gifts have been complemented through the years by hundreds of individually important gifts and purchases, to make it possible for the San Antonio Museum of Art to present to its audience significant artistic achievements of the world`s cultures from ancient times to the present, in accordance with the mission statement. In 1991, the 7,000 square foot Cowden Gallery was opened for changing exhibitions and, in 1994, the 3,000 square foot Beretta Hops House was renovated providing three classrooms for enriching art education programs. The Luby Courtyard was opened at the same time providing an appropriate outdoor space for family days and other art celebrations. In 1998, the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Latin American Art, a 30,000 square foot wing, opened to display Latin American art from all periods. In May of 2005, the new Lenora and Walter F. Brown Asian Art Wing opened. It is a 15,000 square foot addition that makes SAMA the largest center for Asian art in the southern United States. In May of 2009, the Museum Reach extension of San Antonio's famed Riverwalk was opened. To accommodate the Museum's new riverfront access, SAMA built the Glora Galt River Landing, a shaded pavilion, esplanade and terrace along the Museum's north side. Architectural Record described Cambridge Seven's conversion of the old Lone Star brewery to a new art museum as work "of great distinction." The article praised the architects for executing "a technically demanding task without letting the effort show," referring in part to the inserting of new electrical and mechanical systems throughout the building so as to allow the original industrial interiors to take on a new-found elegance as reticent galleries for an art collection. A subdued palette of suites, grays, and light colors articulate details of ceiling vaults, cast iron columns, exposed steel beams, and lighting tracks. Changes of floor materials reinforce the individual identity and exhibit content of the galleries. A public circulation loop organizes the museum visit. Glass elevators, artwork in themselves, provide a kinetic experience within the stacked gallery spaces. A glass enclosed bridge connects the two gallery towers at the top, recalling the original bridge of the brewery, which was used for moving hops. Exterior brick elements, such as arched windows and playful parapet forms, were restored and complemented by the addition of color accents. New architectural elements, such as the glass bridge, skylights over the lobby, and a rooftop pavilion, were developed in a crisp vocabulary of dark glass and steel, both to celebrate the original building and to signal its new use, through contrast.

Constructed, 1884
Renovation, Mar, 1981


Old - AIA Chapter Award in 1982Old - BSA Honor Award in 1982