Almost every Bay Area art museum this summer is mounting an exhibit or tying a marketing campaign around the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love in San Francisco, including the Asian Art Museum.
The "Flower Power" show itself is a lazy little assemblage in three (not four) of the small special exhibit rooms on the first floor of the museum, populated with a few treasures from the permanent collection that have a floral theme, like the 10th century Chinese vase above.
The exhibit includes a few fringe benefits, such as the sidewalk outside painted with 1960s pop art flowers on the walkway usually filled with young injection drug addicts and their scary dogs, which is the other side of what the Summer of Love permanently spawned.
Other benefits are a few beautifully painted and sculptured walls in the lobby area and the 19th century Japanese Mandala of the Womb tapestry in the exhibit below.
The exhibit feels like a missed opportunity because flowers are as plentiful in Asian art as crucifixions are in Western. The museum should have reconfigured their permanent collection on the other two floors for an exhibit called Floral Art from The Collection, ranging from India to the Himalayas to Southeast Asia to China to Korea to Japan. It could have been colossal, and since a large percentage of the permanent collection is in storage, it would have been fun to see what popped up.
My favorite was a conceptual art piece where you were asked to follow a set of rules: Pick a real flower out of the artwork, put it in a lovely little paper holder provided by a volunteer, and then take it out of the museum and give it to a stranger.
I did just that, and when I asked to take my flower recipient's photo, she asked, "What's this for?" and I told her that if the picture turned out good, she would be a star on my Civic Center photoblog. The picture did turn out good, and she is.