Friday, May 30, 2008

Art and Nature



A friend visiting from New York wanted to check out the copper-plated architecture of the new de Young Museum, so we jumped on a bus to Golden Gate Park while I gave him a small warning.



"There are a few wonderful paintings by local painters Jess and Thiebaud and Diebenkorn, along with a great African tapestry made out of the foil from bottle caps (above)..."



"...and the Turrell earthen dome in the sculpture garden is beyond cool..."



"...but compared to the museum collections in New York, the place really is a junkpile and can barely be called second class."



The largest challenge to the de Young museum is the amazing mixture of nature and artifice that is Golden Gate Park itself, where sand dunes have been transformed into primordial ponds...



...where you can watch mallard ducks and turtles sunning themselves on logs next to a great blue heron.



How can the de Young's objets d'art even begin to compete?

16 comments:

pjwv said...

Compared to the museums in New York? Compared to the museums in Cleveland and Baltimore, the deYoung doesn't count. The NYC museums crush it totally.
I really wish they had moved it out of the park and put it near MOMA. That just made so much more sense to me: create a museum district that's easily accessible by public transportation, and use the parkland for . . . a park.
I also love that African metal tapestry. I'll look for the other stuff next time I happen to be out there.

Lisa Hirsch said...

With you on the tapestry, which I can find very easily but whose location I can't...no, wait, I can locate it. You go into the giant waiting room - it feels like that to me, unlike the grand foyers of the NYC museums - with the huge Gerhardt Richter in it, go up the stairs, turn left, walk ten or twenty feed. I think it is outside the gallery on a wall to the right.

I am told that the Oceanic collection is important, and that the donors gave it to the De Young because it would have gotten lost in storage at the Met.

Moving to the Bay Area was a shock to me in many ways, and the pathetic museums were part of it. The permanent collection at the Legion of Honor, for example, is kind of a joke except for the Rodins. I do love their temporary exhibits, though, which are often splendid.

sfmike said...

Dear Lisa: The Oceanic collection is genuinely creepy. It feels like somebody has taken totemic items with shamanic power and stuck it in the middle of a Western art museum. I'd hate to be a guard in the place because the gallery feels cursed.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Yikes.

momo said...

I love love love the earthen dome, not least because of the great pictures one can take in it.

Matty Boy said...

Note from a former bird watcher.

Great blue heron, not giant blue heron.

sfmike said...

Dear matty: "Former" bird watcher? You've given up? What happened?

Thanks for the correction. I'll change the text on the post.

Matty Boy said...

I'm a former bird watcher in the way that I'm a former chess player. If I met my 16 year old self, that young man would be disgusted at how I've let my skillz deteriorate.

I would then open a pack of cards, ask him if he'd like to play poker and take his lunch money for a month.

pjwv said...

The Girl, Could you list some of those great exhibits? It seems to me they've had a lot of shows featuring rich women's clothes. I'm sure lots of people enjoyed those shows, but it doesn't really seem worth the bother for someone like me, who would have to take BART in from the East Bay and then take a long bus ride. Even if the DeYoung is "absolutely necessary for anyone who keeps up in the industry", what are they offering to someone who is, you know, just interested in art (and not necessarily just trendy British stuff from the 1980s either)?

sfmike said...

The "comment deleted by the author" was by somebody calling themselves "The Girl" who left a link to her own photoblog which is what Patrick (pjwv) is reacting to. I also wrote a sharp reply, essentially calling The Girl's sanity into question. I've taken down my sharp reply in response to her comment deletion, and that is that.

Monica said...

There are a couple of comments I want to make here. First, in response to the site, I love the African tapestry of bottlecaps. I love peoples' art or recycled works in general. It's my thing. I've bought tons of stuff, not quite of this size, in places like Haiti and Thailand. Your photo is amazing.
The second thing I want to address is to the comment about San Francisco museums vs. those of New York. As a longtime former New Yorker, I believe it's not fair to compare museums in SF, Denver, Houston, etc. to the ones in New York.
With all due respect to the many first-rate cities in the U.S., New York is our cultural capital, even though LA is trying very hard to knock it from the top.
And if you want to get really politically correct, if the museums in New York had to give back everything to the countries where the objects were found, there wouldn't be that much after all.
Bravo to SFMike for bringing peoples' attention to places not always covered by the navel-gazing East Coast-centered media.

pjwv said...

Monica, You make an excellent and indisputable point about the incomparability of the museums in New York, but even setting aside NYC, the museums in SF don't really measure up to the standards of many other American cities, even cities which many San Franciscans love to sneer at. Even removing Boston, Washington DC, and Philadelphia from consideration, cities such as Houston, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore have comparable or superior museums, in my opinion (I'm only talking about cities I've been to). I mention this only because San Francisco tends to applaud itself a lot as a cultural capital, and if you point out that Cleveland has superior museums (and a more beautiful symphony hall), people think you're crazy or joking. We just had the wrong robber barons, I guess.

namastenancy said...

I agree with you on the sad offerings at the De Young. After they built the current lump to house the collection, the gaps became glaringly obvious. Too bad they didn't spend some of the money that was wasted on the aforesaid building and the illegal garage to buy some art. It's funny that we have so little here given that WR Hearst was buying out anything in Europe that wasn't nailed down. You'd think that some of it could have been given to the museum. The De Young does have a decent -- but not good enough - collection of Bay Area Painters but they could do so much better if they stopped focusing on rich women's clothing.
I agree that the Oceanic collection is truly powerful and the area devoted to the arts of Mexico and the pre-Columbian rooms are good as well. But WTF is up with all the furniture in the upstairs rooms; the chairs lined up along the hallways and nothing in context.
Blech!

Lisa Hirsch said...

I love that building. The exterior skin, the tower, the beautiful shape, the way it rises out of the park. But I don't think the interior is going to wear well, because the layout is confusing and the finishes seem cheap and easily damaged.

Danica said...

I agree that Cleveland and Pittsburgh for instance have superior art museums, but they each have essentially one major museum. (I don't know about Baltimore.) SF has the de Young, the Legion, SFMOMA, the Asian, etc. If these collections were to be combined, as they are in these other cities, they'd knock your socks off.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Are you sure? Nothing in the world will give SF a good collection of European old master paintings, for example. What the Legion of Honor has is pathetic.