It’s evening in Golden Gate Park. The silhouette of the perforated glass and copper façade looms behind the botanical walkway. Typically at this hour, the voice from the intercom would announce, ‘The museum will be closing soon.’ But the de Young is alive tonight, promising a night of spectacular entertainment, with crowds roaming the rooms, exploring and observing various exhibits while a live band plays California surf music in the background.
Subdued red light floods the center of the main floor, as adults with cocktails in hand await The Aqua Velvets, the band performing for the night. As the band begins, indistinct chatter diminishes to a soft murmur, accenting the surf music instrumentals.
It’s Friday night at the de Young. Every week from April to November, the museum hosts a series of diverse art activities and events throughout the evening, with each week focusing on a different theme. Activities include “live music, dance and theater performances, artist demonstrations, film screenings, panel discussions, lectures, hands-on art activities and exhibition tours,” according to the de Young website. In addition, local artists display their art, conduct workshops and premiere new commissions. Guests also have the opportunity to experience the observation deck which remains open until 8 p.m., offering an incredible 360 degree view of San Francisco. With a diverse range of activities to interest all ages, Fridays at the de Young promise a vibrant, engaging hub of artistic and cultural events.
Tucked in the corner of the museum near the entrance, holograms of semi-transparent images flicker across a thin glass screen, intriguing passersby to enter the exhibition of Masako Miki, the local guest artist for the evening, titled “Kira Kira, Moya Moya, Hara Hara.” Protruding from one wall are dozens of small platforms, each supporting a small figurine made out of brightly colored felt. Detailed yet simplistic works of carefully crafted animals, mostly wolves and whales, are featured on the walls. Miki, who hails from Berkeley but is originally from Japan, wanders around the room, engaging in lively conversation and answering questions about her artwork. The whimsical ambience allows visitors to experience the wholly original and refined imagination of Miki.
“The show represents the idea of the rethinking of boundaries and I’m taking particular realms of the spiritual and physical realm. All of the references I am taking are from the Japanese folklore and mythology,” Miki says.
Yellow lanterns cast warm tones across the room, juxtaposing the finely-lined blue and grey drawings.
“Lanterns are a signifier for pathways. In Japan we celebrate the Obon festival, which is in August,” Miki explains. “We celebrate ancestors and they come visit the earth. We illuminate the pathway for them, so they don’t get lost.”
Miki has a warm, friendly manner about her. She smiles as she sits at a work table, dressed in all black, and describes the inspiration behind her work.
“I tried to use the motif and concept that demonstrates the boundaries are all blurred. So that’s why the [exhibition] looks more ghostly and kind of transparent,” Miki says.
“Three Gems” is an interactive art piece hidden in the Osher Sculpture Garden of the de Young. Guests must walk through a small tunnel cut out of the grass-covered hill and between two large white concrete retaining walls in order to enter the skyspace. At night, the interior of the dome is illuminated with LED lights and guests have the opportunity to become immersed in the light show. The lights are turned on approximately 40 minutes after sunset, changing colors every 20 minutes. There is a small circular opening at the top of the dome, allowing for a concentrated view of the night sky. Visitors gaze about in awe, sitting on a stone bench that runs around the circumference of the interior of the chamber. Guests’ perception of the night sky morphs to reflect the complementary color of the light inside the dome. The muted colors of the skydome creates an incredibly serene atmosphere. Although, the lights occasionally seem to change too slow, and taking photos with flash will elicit booing from other visitors, “Three Gems” is undoubtedly a hidden jewel.
As the sun begins to set, guests gather in elevators, taking them up to the minimalistic Hamon Observation Tower on the ninth floor of the museum. The glass walls offer an impressive view of the city, from the tips of the Golden Gate enveloped in fog to the distinct point of the Transamerica Pyramid. The tower offers a tranquil bastion away from the crowded galleries. It is the perfect place to step away from the loud music to have a few peaceful moments to talk to others, digest the night’s festivities and be immersed in the San Francisco skyline.
People clap and dance on the main floor of the de Young as The Aqua Velvets perform a lively, original set of colorful surf music with a blend of California western and lounge. The band members, Donn Spindt (drummer), Hank Maninger (guitar), Miles Corbin (songwriter and guitarist), and Michael Linder (bass, keyboards and accordion) harness the crowd’s energy under the red spotlight, feeding spunky guitar riffs and rhythmic drum beats to the audience. A refreshing and innovative genre of music, The Aqua Velvets commemorates the hub of California surf culture in the ’80s and ’90s, contrasting with the sound of clacking shoes and hushed whispers typically audible in an art museum.
Masako Miki & "Three gems"
Hamon ObservAtion Tower & The Aquavelvets
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