On my visit to San Francisco last month I knew one of the things I wanted to do was visit some museums and art galleries. When preparing for any trip Google is your friend. Find your location on Google maps then type in “art gallery” or “museum” and suggestions should pop up. Two of the places that popped up for the area we stayed at were the Asian Art Museum and the Museum of Modern Art [MOMA]. After looking at the website I knew I wanted to go to both, as a yoga teacher Asian art is interesting to me, and as I went to college for Graphic Design modern art was up my alley too.
Asian Art Museum
Located on Larkin and Fulton near City Hall, the Asian Art Museum is a pretty easy find and easily accessible by foot. Powell St BART station is just a few blocks away making it accessible from pretty much any public transport system in the city. I’ve visited a few museums in recent years in the study of yoga, Asian deities and yogic teachings, so I was eager to check out their exhibits. The Museum has three floors and art from all over Asia including Persia, Tibet, China, Korea, Japan and more. Here you can see paintings, sculptures, photographs, ceramics, tapestries, clothing, dolls and so many more kinds of arts. There is something for everyone.
As soon as I saw this piece outside I knew I was going to LOVE the Asian art museum. This is Dragon Fortune by Hung Yi and I was immediately smitten. Inscribed on the body are abundant Chinese expressions of good fortune, such as, “Every day brings buckets of gold.”. The dragon’s shape is fish-like, evoking Chinese folklore about carp transforming into dragons. I loved the bright colors. The design reminded me of meditative coloring, scrapbook paper and tapestries and I just felt happier for seeing it!
I actually loved the contrast of old and new. In a few sections there was a mixture of modern art and older sculptures and ceramics. Some childrens projects were also on display making this a real mix. While I was most eager to see the architecture and hindu/buddhist pieces I was stunned by some of the up and coming artists. The blue sculpture above was one that particularly caught my eye.
Special Exhibit Divine Bodies
On researching the Asian Art museum I learned they had a special exhibit opening the week before I arrived called Divine Bodies. It honestly seemed like fate was lending a hand and telling to go visit! Bringing historical paintings and sculptures from mainly Hindu and Buddhist traditions together with contemporary photo-based work, Divine Bodies invites you to ponder the power of transformation, the possibility of transcendence and the relationship of the body to the cosmos. It was thought provoking, and awe inspiring with the beautiful sculptures and photographs. My favorite of which was the White Tara from Nepal (below). Definitely worth the extra fee to check out the exhibit, Divine bodies runs until July 29th 2018.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Many years ago in college I studied graphic design, I even working in design and print while in college. During that time I fell in love with the work of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. Warhol satisfied my pop-art poster style with white space, while Lichtenstein more filled my childhood fantasy of cartoons and color. I was happy to see both artists on display along with others like Pollock and Matisse.
There were seven floors at the MOMA, and it had several pieces I loved. The exhibit called “The Train” depicting the journey RFK’s body for burial, the spiders by Louise Bourgeois (eerily beautiful), and a Photographic works by Penelope Umbrico of 5,377,183 sunsets . I also found some works with lots of texture and detail. Work that left me inspired and eager to create.
However, while I found some new artists I liked, there was a lot that left me puzzled. Art is subjective, but I really had to wonder how a red square on a white wall was “art”. Some wood stacked in a corner of a room was art? Or the one with the woman shaving her legs in the bath… I was left wondering “what is art?”
What is art?
Art is defined in the Oxford dictionary as: The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. This is where it gets tricky I guess. While I wasn’t moved emotionally by some of the pieces, it’s varied per individual. I can be moved by Lichtenstein and Warhol as it stirs memories for me of a time in my past. Plus I find it visually pleasing. Others may find a bunch of air purifiers hanging from the ceiling (An Te Liu “Cloud”) emotionally stirring. For me I’m much more a piece by piece connoisseur of art.
Modern or Asian?
So what’s my verdict? If you could only go to one, which would I suggest? Hands down the Asian Art Museum! As a clear winner for me due to the sheer variety of work. Really though it’s going to depend on your artistic tastes. I loved the Divine Bodies exhibit but there were so many other pieces to view and digest. Usually my favorite pieces tend to be of Ganesh, I was mesmerized by the White Tara. I bought a postcard of it as a keepsake. While I loved the space and openness of the MOMA the art didn’t hold my attention like the Asian Art Museum. Do both if you can, but if it’s one or the other definitely go with the Asian Art Museum!
Which Museum do you think you’d have prefered?
What art medium do you like?
Do you have a favorite artist?