There were so many fantastic shows this year that I hardly know where to begin – but why not being in the beginning with the Asian Art Museums’ “Bali, Art, Ritual, Performance,” proof that the Asian had put last year’s financial troubles behind them.
“God created the Maharajas to provide a spectacle to humanity” wrote Rudyard Kipling, and the Asian did justice to his observation in their next big show, “Maharaja, Splendors of Indian’s Royal Courts.”
The FAMSF gave us a feast of European art – from Pissarro to the splendors of the old masters to the subtle skill of 17th century Dutch painting in the Von Otterloo collection.
Isabella de Borchgraves’ skill with scissors and paper created exquisite costumes based on famous art works, a three-dimensional fantasy, complete with little paper-mache dogs.
Pissarro is probably the least well known of the impressionists and the most politically radical. The show at the Legion, of 100 paintings brought together from collections all over the world, showed his humanistic side with paintings of family, friends and the working people of the day as well as his never before exhibited political cartoons.
The behemoth blockbuster of the year was the two-museum tribute to the Stein family. Most of us know of Gertrude, the contrary, cantankerous and sometimes charming women who is notorious for saying ‘There is no there, there” when referring to Oakland. Using a wealth of archival material, the show brought her and Alice and their world to life.
Right across the road, at SFMOMA was an eloquent tribute to the family as art collectors. Seldom have so few bought so much art with so little money. It’s difficult to say which is more amazing – the low prices paid for now priceless paintings by Cezanne, Picasso and Matisse or the Steins’ (particularly Sarah Stein’s) support of art that was then new, provocative and revolutionary.
Across the bay, the Berkeley Art Museum hosted two unique shows, the first West Coast exhibit of the work of Kurt Schwitters and “Create,” a show of art made by artists with disabilities.
“Create” highlighted the extraordinary contributions of three of the foremost centers for artists with disabilities, all located in the Bay Area: Creativity Explored (San Francisco), Creative Growth Art Center (Oakland), and NIAD Art Center (Richmond, CA).
As I said at the time, “It’s really a shame to call them “artists with disabilities” because they are artists first, and mentally challenged second. Yet, to ignore their condition is to make light of the difficulties they face.
The MoAdD brought us a rare look at original works by Romare Bearden, the vibrant quilts of the Siddis, part of the African diaspora in India and “Textural Rhythms,” swing, jazz and be-bop in fabric and thread,
In the galleries: Hosfelt Gallery hosted up a rare look at late works by Jay De Feo, one of San Francisco’s iconic artists who hasn’t had a show here in over 25 years.
These are a few of my favorite things from the rich offerings from my favorite city by the bay. But none of this would be possible without the people behind the scenes at the museums. I want to give a shout of thanks to the following: Jill Lynch, Robin Wander, Cheryl McCain and Peter Cavagnaro at the Berkeley Art Museum, Libby Garrison and Robyn Wise at SFMOMA. I hope that I haven’t left anybody out but if I have, please e-mail me and I will remedy the omisison.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times and there is nothing new under the sun says email@example.com