I didn’t quite know what to expect from the San Antonio Museum of Art, but if the charm of the city was any indication I may be again surprised. The museum sits in an industrial area removed from the downtown tourist district. It is connected via the River Walk, however and a leisurely stroll could have led us there. Not knowing that, and perhaps not having the energy for it, a city bus seemed like a good option. The museum known as SAMA, which I pointed out to the person at the admissions desk is the same acronym used by the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, is located in an old brewery where they once made Lone Star beer. A large Pabst Blue Ribbon sign is also visible from an upstairs window.
We started on the fourth floor where there is a minimal amount of European art. My initial thought was “this won’t take long.” One floor below begins a small, but very well curated collection of American works. If I was going to build an American collection and didn’t have the space the Met has or the money Alice Walton has, this would be close to what I might come up with. There’s a portrait by Sargent, a work by Bannister, one by Henri, an monumental unfinished work by Benjamin West (I enjoy is drawing more than his finished paintings) and an array of portraits by Sully, Inman, Copley and members of the Peale family. There’s a curly pine table made in Texas, a Belter chair and a Philadelphia Chippendale Chair made of Walnut with a curious knot in the back splat.
From there we enter a floor of modern and then a substantial collection of items from the ancient world. Up another elevator and we find the largest collection of Asian art in the Southwest.
I would also like to note that this has been one of the few times a museum had available a catalog of their American collection, and it just so happened all the books in the gift shop were half price. I didn’t make it to the café on the River Walk, but that could have been an added treat.