Art, Love, San Francisco

In Destinations, North America, Staycations by Kathryn Lejeune

San Francisco has long been known as a freewheeling yet enterprising hub of independent thinkers. Artists have blossomed in the rolling hills and eclectic architecture that make this city by the bay instantly recognizable. Residents here are proud of their artistic culture, and the evidence is everywhere. I was determined to spend a weekend steeped in all the art San Francisco has to offer and quickly learned I did not have to try hard to get a diverse and fascinating experience.

My mission began quite promisingly as we pulled up to the unique and vibrant Hotel Triton. Located downtown just across from the jade tiled entrance to Chinatown, this one of a kind boutique hotel was the perfect base for my art centric weekend. Stepping into Hotel Triton is like entering a dream curated by a cheerful bevy of designers intent on outdoing each other. Everywhere you look is a celebration of creativity, and the playful atmosphere seems to have rubbed off on all the hotel’s employees, none of whom were ever without a warm smile. The lobby’s large glass facade provided excellent people watching while lounging on the unusually crafted armchairs or cuddling up near the inviting fireplace.

After a languid morning spent making good use of the provided cheetah print robes and yoga mat, we set off on a walk to explore the area. San Francisco’s downtown is a lively neighborhood that boasts luxury stores, chic cafes, and plenty of art galleries.

Down an alleyway near Union Square, we found fine Asian antiques at Xanadu Gallery. Frank Lloyd Wright himself designed this unusual building, whose spiraling circular motif is elegant and unworldly. Delicate, complex textiles lie alongside finely detailed statues. Much of the exquisite handcrafted jewelry on display is also for sale, a must for anyone who desires a truly original piece of wearable art.

As we walked down the street we heard the beautiful operatic singing of a street performer fill the air. I announced that it was my desire to find a restaurant with a patio where I could hear the ringing of Puccini. Lo and behold, not twenty yards away, I spotted Bistro 69. Proudly serving fresh ingredients, locally sourced when possible, the menu was filled with delectable enticements. My salmon burger with sun dried tomatoes spread on a toasted brioche was bursting with flavor, and my husband gave his eggs benedict a raving review. The singer’s sonorous voice boomed out O’ Sole Mio as we sipped mimosas.

Body and spirit fully satisfied, we moved on to Highlight Gallery. This ultra minimalist space housed only a few pieces by one artist, Facundo Argañaraz, but they were quite striking. Repeated, truncated images of hands and throats on aluminum composite panels were backlit and seemed, to this observer, to indicate detachment within intimate touch. Cold LED lights combined with the monochrome palette throughout added to the industrial aesthetic. The gallery changes out exhibitions every month, and is certainly worth popping in to see what Highlight is up to.

To be perfectly honest, I was a bit trepidatious at first to enter John Berggruen Gallery, whose entrance is through the type of hallway usually reserved for lawyers and stockbrokers. Once in, however, the expansive, two storey space proved to be bright and welcoming. That day, they were exhibiting paintings by Julian Lethbridge and kinetic sculptures by Pedro S. de Movellan. Lethbridge’s pieces were large masterpieces of movement and ordered chaos that sucked me in through the deliberate madness and grasp of color. Never before had I so badly wanted to see the artistic process in action. The delicate moving sculptures by de Movellan continuously transformed in a fluid dance, winding and twirling to slight breezes.

The night finished with a visit out to The Wave Organ, an acoustic sculpture whose eerie music relies on the natural rhythm of the bay. Best visited during high tide, The Wave Organ is one of those perfectly odd and completely enchanting ventures into art for art’s sake. We sat on the stone jetty, taking in the evening and reminiscing on the day. The weekend left with me a head full of new ideas and eager to return someday for more of San Francisco’s vast and varied art scene.