Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 11 / 15 March 2018

Portraits of
the art-world
in life & in print

Out There

Artist Cindy Sherman's series of society portraits, installed in her SFMOMA retrospective. (Photo: Rick Gerharter)
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Confronting the room of society-lady portraits in the awesome Cindy Sherman retrospective that just opened at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art , it's hard not to think of the cadre of society matrons who rule over San Francisco boards and charity events with iron manicures in velvet gloves. Consider the well-known Mommy chairman of the board of another museum entirely, for example, who gifted her sweet boy-child with a four-gallery display of his trophy photography collection. Oh, how we could go on.

At the media preview for the Sherman show last week, NY MoMA associate curator of photography Eva Respini called the artist's oeuvre an exploration of "the anxiety of self." Add in the anxiety of social status, acquisition, and other art-world neuroses, and you've got a tight focus on the crowd at the Artist's Circle and Director's Circle opening party that evening. Interestingly, although she didn't attend the press preview that morning, Sherman did appear at the opening soiree for collectors, donors and other high-rollers. We think we know where we rank in that particular pecking order.

At the evening affair, Out There lounged upon a divan set up in the SFMOMA atrium and couldn't help thinking how much we'll miss that space with its soaring staircase, and its all-over stripes of Italianate marble, when the building is overhauled for its expansion, and of how no one in the SF arts commentariat has yet remarked critically upon this desecration of Mario Botta's iconic building. As the poet Joni Mitchell has sung, "Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you got til it's gone?"


Viennese treat

We cover the waterfront. Representatives from the Vienna Tourist Board were in town last week, inviting us to lunch at the glamorous Waterbar on the Embarcadero to entice us with their city's attractions. Along with the presentation we were fed beet salad with goat cheese, butter lettuce and toasted pistachios; pan-roasted Petrale sole with fingerling potatoes, shallot gremolata in a shellfish-tomato fondue; and fresh summer berries in vanilla chantilly – all washed down with good Austrian wine. Urp.

Our hosts pointed to new and developing neighborhoods in their ancient city, futuristic hotels and a new concept of lodging in converted storefronts. But we were delighted to find that the Vienna tourism folks also include LGBT events and attractions in their pitch, highlighting the LGBT Kreativball, the HIV/AIDS fundraiser Life Ball, and the gay pride Rainbow Parade. Prominent in their press kit is a LGBT-targeted "Queer Guide" that's available from their offices at


Arts administration

The classic fish palace Hayes Street Grill was the site, last Monday a week ago, for a gathering of music-world types at the unveiling of a framed photograph of former San Francisco Symphony executive director and former Philharmonia Baroque e.d. Peter Pastreich , now immortalized upon the wall in the Grill's entryway with other musical luminaries of every description. The affair was hosted by Pastreich's longtime friend and B.A.R. publisher Tom Horn, and attracted such boldface names as San Francisco Opera general director David Gockley, SFS e.d. Brent Assink, former SFS president Nancy Bechtle, PBO e.d. Michael Costa, City Arts & Lectures founder Sydney Goldstein, and a smattering of pressies such as the likes of Out There. HSG proprietress Patricia Unterman served up tasty nibbles, and the bar offered good New World wine, as we toasted Pastreich and his huge contributions to the musical life of this city.

It's about time arts administrators get their place in the sun. Last week we also read Peter Selz: Sketches of a Life in Art by Paul J. Karlstrom (Univ. of Calif. Press), a biography of the founding director of the then-University Art Museum, now-Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive . It's an interesting account of Selz's career, from high posts at Chicago's Institute of Design (the so-called "New Bauhaus") and NY's MoMA to the BAM directorship, and then, after conflict with the UC board of regents, notably conservative art collector Norton Simon , to the arts faculty at UC Berkeley .

Selz was an important figure in the recognition of modern art and artists, championing the work of Max Beckmann , Sam Francis, Mark Rothko, Bruce Connor and Nathan Oliveira , among others. He was also key, even in retirement, to getting artist Fernando Botero's politically hard-hitting Abu Ghraib series exhibited and into the collection of BAM. "His way of looking at and understanding art was more emotional than analytical, and his anecdotal method of conveying a sense of art as a living entity was viewed by some colleagues as insufficiently academic," writes Karlstrom. "Yet this approach turned out to be a major part of his appeal to a number of the students at Berkeley."

In our reading of the book, we came upon a passage including some quotes and perspective from arts expert Sidra Stich , who was Selz's teaching assistant in the early 1970s. Just the day before, we had been chatting with Stich at the Sherman presser. What a small arts world!


Light fantastic

Lest you think it's all art history and scholarly research with this old Out There, we were also present last week at the debut of Corazon Under the Dome, under the old Emporium dome at SF's Westfield Centre. OT chilled like our champagne in the VIP holding pen as the music-and-light show came alive above us, projected onto the majestic 102-ft.-wide dome.

It's all SF iconic images: the Gold Rush, the 1906 quake, 1930s jazz, the Beatniks, the 60s psychedelic haze, 70s disco, and the new, post-Loma Prieta waterfront. The soundtrack includes classics from Tony Bennett , Otis Redding, Judy Garland, Journey , Santana and the Steve Miller Band. Promo says: "From cable cars and Coit Tower to Fisherman's Wharf and the Ferry Building, Corazon Under the Dome is a dazzling tribute to the City by the Bay."

Located on Level 4, the seven-minute light spectacular begins nightly at 5 p.m. and runs every half-hour until the Centre closes. From Mon.-Sat., the last show is at 8 p.m. On Sunday, the last show is at 6:30 p.m. (Through Sept. 3.)



Perhaps this is apropos of nothing, but we came across this great quote last week while we were reading the letters to the editor of The New York Times Book Review, because we still read books, can you believe it, what with all those great new apps?, and we also actually read reviews of books, and then, to go the whole nine yards, we also read letters to the editor about those book reviews, but that is how we got acquainted with this quotation, which we like so much we will parrot it back to you.

"Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts upon the unthinking." – economist John Maynard Keynes . Words to live by.


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