Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Successor to the Defenestration Building Rises in SoMa

When I first learned of the imminent demise of 5Pointz back in October, I compared it to the Defenestration Building, which is also set to be demolished.

The Defenestration Building. Photo courtesy of As I See It.

Well, there's good news on that front. No, the Defenestration installation isn't going to be saved. But the same artist is working on a piece called Caruso's Dream that features 13 glass pianos dangling from a new building on Ninth Street in SoMa.

Photo courtesy of SFGate.

The installation, from San Francisco artist Brian Goggin, bears similarities to his earlier work while also serving as a tribute to Caruso's final night in San Francisco.

From the Chronicle:
"The whole piece is inspired by this moment when the opera star Enrico Caruso was awakened by the Great Calamity of April 18, 1906, while he was staying at the Palace Hotel," Goggin says. "He did not know if he was awake or still dreaming as he was walking to the window to see the results of the ongoing earthquake."
(According to the legend, Caruso vowed to never come back to San Francisco — and never did.)

Photo courtesy of SFGate.

I lived near the Defenestration Building for years and was amazed that it lasted as long as it did. The work was only supposed to be up for six months and instead survived 15 years (helped by how long it took to revitalize that stretch of SoMa — the building was otherwise vacant).

Anyway, it's nice to hear that the new work will be permanent. It even features a light and sound component.
At night, the glass pianos will shine from within, like old incandescent bulbs. The sound of Caruso singing will be on KPH (Palace Hotel), recreating a station that once emanated from the hotel. At 90.9 on the FM dial, it will have a reach of 300 feet. That gets it all the way across Ninth Street, to the headquarters of Twitter.
The artwork was commissioned by the developers of the new building, Avalon Bay. (Its name is confusingly similar to Avalon Mission Bay, where Kelly and I lived for a couple years.) This isn't wholly a charitable act, of course. As I've mentioned before, public art is required as part of large San Francisco construction projects.

That fact, along with the proximity to Twitter and the rapidly gentrifying Mid-Market area, may cause some people to view this new work as corporate art. (Think of the reaction to Cupid's Span.)

I hope it gets a fair shake. This looks like an intriguing new piece, with a strong connection to San Francisco history. Everyone should give it a chance.

Still, I'm not sure I'd want to be standing under 13 glass pianos if there's another 1906-sized earthquake.