Not all great works of art in San Francisco are encased behind museum walls or on exhibit at conventional galleries. One of The City’s most fabulous public art collections is an integral part of the landscape at Embarcadero Center where visitors can enjoy artwork against an arresting backdrop of soaring office towers, open plazas and lush greenery.
The following self-guided tour of the Embarcadero Center area public art collection begins in the lobby of the LeMeridien Hotel, located on Battery and Clay Streets. The tour continues through Embarcadero Center, Justin Herman Plaza and the Hyatt Regency San Francisco, ending on the Street Level of Four Embarcadero Center. Although LeMeridien San Francisco, Hyatt Regency and Old Federal Reserve are not part of Boston Properties’ Embarcadero Center, the public art included in their design by Rockefeller and Portman constituted part of the vision for the Embarcadero Center area development.
With a diverse collection of pieces, we trust you’ll enjoy this outstanding assemblage of San Francisco’s public art. So grab you smartphone and let’s start the tour!
A good starting point for a self-guided tour of the collection is the lobby of the Le Meridien San Francisco where a focal point is Olga de Amaral’s Alquimia LXXIV, a composition of hand-woven linen tiles painted gold. Also enlivening the lobby is Arnaldo Pomodoro’s Colonna, a cast bronze sculpture that borrows elements from illuminated manuscripts, computer chips, hieroglyphics and Florentine columns.
Encircled by a spiral stairway between the Le Meridien San Francisco and the Old Federal Reserve Bank Building on Commercial Street is a bronze sphere with black etchings, an untitled work by German artist Fritz Koenig. A few steps to the west is Dimitri Hadzi’s Creazione, a bronze sculpture with a spirited sense of movement that was inspired by the music of Mozart.
Gracing the entryway of the historic Old Federal Reserve Bank Building is Traders of the Adriatic, a richly-colored mural created in 1915 by Jules Guerin that pays homage to the world of banking with its depiction of Venetian shipping merchants accepting receipts for goods on deposit. The building is also the magnificent backdrop for two contemporary abstract bronze sculptures, Hermes and Dyonisis, A Monument to Analysis and The University of Wisdom, both by French artist Arman.
Across Sansome Street at the Embarcadero Center West plaza is Torso With Arm Raised II, a powerful, archeologically inspired bronze sculpture by noted California artist Stephen DeStaebler. In the Embarcadero Center West lobby is Bill Barrett’s Baile Merengue, an abstract work in bronze that captures the fluidity of dance rhythms.
One of the marvels at One Embarcadero Center is the dramatic Two Columns with Wedge, a 17-ton stainless steel sculpture by William Gutmann that was fabricated out of an 82-foot long cylinder in a San Francisco wok manufacturing company. One Embarcadero Center is also graced by two huge colorful tapestries by Françoise Grossen, both hand woven by the artist out of jute.
A walk through Two Embarcadero Center reveals a couple of wonders, including Nicholas Schoffer’s Chronos XIV, a steel sculpture with 49 light projectors and 65 movable discs that creates a ballet of light and movement. At the lobby level is Anne Van Kleeck’s Blocks, a bronze sculpture reminiscent of children’s building blocks stacked as though they are about to fall.
Taking center stage at Three Embarcadero Center is Louise Nevelson’s Sky Tree, a soaring structure of black Corten steel set in a reflecting pool. Nearby is Robert Russin’s Chthonodynamis, a sculpture of black laboradite depicting the Greek god of the earth’s primal energy.
At Four Embarcadero Center, architect and sculptor John C. Portman, Jr. makes a statement with The Tulip, a bold concrete tulip-shaped sculpture outlined with lights that spans three levels. On the street level is Mistral, a cast bronze sculpture by Elbert Weinberg that represents the warm winds that originate in Africa and sweep upwards to southern Europe.
Immediately east of Four Embarcadero Center is Justin Herman Plaza, the setting for one of the City’s most famous and controversial landmarks, the Villancourt Fountain. Created by Armand Villancourt in 1971, the fountain is comprised of 101 precast aggregate concrete boxes designed in such a way that visitors can walk over, under and through its waterfalls. Another plaza landmark is Jean Dubuffet’s La Chiffonniere, a stainless steel structure with black epoxy that represents a cartoon-like ragged woman.
Another showcase for arresting artwork is the adjacent Hyatt Regency San Francisco, where a reflecting pool in the hotel’s soaring atrium lobby is the setting for Charles O. Perry’s Eclipse, a 40-foot high geodesic sphere consisting of 1,400 pieces of curved metal tubing joined together in pentagons and supported by three massive steel legs. Fabulous tapestries, wall hangings and paintings by local and international artists can also be found throughout the hotel, including works by Adolph Gottleib, Françoise Grossen, Olga de Amaral, Jagoda Buic, Joseph Grau Garriga, Candace Crockett, Paul Jenkins, Pierre Clark, James Monte, Dennis Farber, Robert Motherwell, Anne Marie Rucker and others.