Saturday, January 2, 2010


San Francisco's de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park closed in the year 2000. The building was demolished and replaced with something larger and more stylish, plus a vast, two-level underground parking garage, reopened in 2005. A friend with a car brought me to this place so that we could see the Amish quilt show in the Museum's textile galleries. Many of the quilts had black backgrounds like the Broken Star below, said to have been made around 1930 in Ohio. I hesitate to reproduce even one (although the Museum supplies the image) because the colors are such poor approximations and there is no sense conveyed of the fruitful tension between the patterns of the piecing and the patterns of the quilting. But the installation was beautiful and blessedly uncrowded early in the morning when we arrived (though mobs had already formed up behind ropes downstairs to gape at the tired old King Tut relics which the Museum is milking as a cash cow by keeping the show open for more than a year, a circus entirely monopolizing the special exhibition space.) I took a few photographs outside the Amish show in the permanent exhibition galleries for American art, but the pictures all turned out ugly – except for the one I took more or less by chance (above) at the end as we were leaving the parking garage. It is a good example of how architects' intentions are almost always and very rapidly violated by the client who starts to make actual use of the building. What would the designers make of the orange cones, the floor mats and the collapsible plastic sandwich-board sign that have been superimposed as dominant visual elements on the carefully balanced ramp and archway they conceived to lead out into the Music Concourse from the parking garage?