Modern art in Silicon Valley … courtesy of Google’s Sergey Brin?

Not content to simply buy and fix up retail properties in the Silicon Valley suburb of Los Altos, a real estate investment firm linked to billionaire Google co-founder Sergey Brin has begun sponsoring community outreach efforts that include “pop-up” parks and a temporary exhibit from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

“Project Los Altos – SF MOMA in Silicon Valley” is one of several satellite exhibitions staged by the museum while its main building in San Francisco is closed for a major expansion & renovation.

The Los Altos exhibit includes photos, paintings, performance art and interactive projects intended to reflect life in Silicon Valley, which the museum calls “a region of unparalleled importance to shaping contemporary life.” The show opened last week, with installations at several spots along State Street and other locations in downtown Los Altos; it’s scheduled to run through next March.

The exhibition’s lead sponsor is Passerelle Investment Co., a Los Altos firm that was bankrolled by Brin, according to a Wall Street Journal report last year. Since 2009, the firm has made a quiet splash in that generally upscale bedroom community by buying up at least a half-dozen commercial properties, renovating storefronts and leasing them out – sometimes at below-market rents – to existing local businesses and some new ones, including restaurants and bookstores catering to young families and kids.

While the Journal named Brin as Passerelle’s main investor, he’s never confirmed it or spoken publicly about the firm or its goals.  (The Journal noted that he lived in neighboring Los Altos Hills, a town so exclusive that it doesn’t really have a downtown.)  Passerelle didn’t respond this week when we left messages by email and phone.

In a 2012 interview with the Los Altos Town Crier newspaper, Passerelle’s Amanda Tevis would say only that she and co-founder Taylor Robinson started the firm “with some local partners who share our vision and who are like-minded about the importance of a vibrant downtown that truly anchors the entire multigenerational community.”

But the firm is apparently shifting focus, according to the local paper, which reported in March that Tevis and Robinson, both veteran real estate developers, were moving into advisory roles. The Town Crier reported that new director Brooke Ray Smith planned to focus more on “urban planning and community outreach.”

(Image by Alec Soth: “Quick Fix Computer Sales & Services, Mountain View, 2013”; inkjet print commissioned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, courtesy the artist; ©Alec Soth)




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