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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

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Entering fifth-floor galleries at SFMOMA now is like visiting a whole new museum on the top of the [not so] old one. A gently curved enclosed bridge to the just opened Rooftop Garden grants a New York view of San Francisco skyscrapers on one side, and a subtle nuanced wall painting by Rosana Castrillo Diaz on the other. The newly installed “Between Art and Life” exhibition extends into a glassed overlook of the garden with its large-scale pieces and envelopes a visitor in a double vision of inside and outside. The majority of artwork in the exhibition, tastefully curated by Gary Garrels, is derived from the permanent collection and produced in the last three decades. Robert Rauschenberg, Tom Friedman, Damien Hirst, Anish Kapoor, Katharina Fritsch, Jim Hodges and Zhang Huan, to name just a few, share the sunlit space as a precursor to the garden - this airy art world all its own. The Lens of Rotterdam, by Mario Merz, is a central piece of the sculpture garden, also populated by Alexander Calder’s “Big Crinkly,” Ellsworth Kelly’s “Stele I,” Henry Moore’s “Large Torso Arch,” and Barnett Newman’s “Zim Zum I.” (I never noticed silver veins on “Virgin Mary” by Kiki Smith when the sculpture was in the second-floor gallery). Besides the sculpture garden, the roof space includes the narrow terrace with more intimate Arneson and Shapiro pieces, and gingko biloba trees and assorted shrubs complete the picture. In-between two outside terraces there is a cleverly designed glass-enclosed pavilion, which can stay open or closed depending on the weather, and where “The Nest” by Louise Bourgeois found its proper representation alongside the no less enticing “Conversation Piece” by Juan Munoz. What seems slightly out of place is a newly-acquired piece by Ranjani Shettar “Me, no, not me, buy me, eat me, wear me, have me, me, no, not me,” whose very title (not to mention the busy look of different-size metal-weaved baskets) sounds like a bazaar cry in this otherwise highly refined and contemplative space. Another newcomer to the pavilion, though, will definitely enhance the art experience – Blue Bottle Coffee Bar, where double shots of artisan, micro-roasted, individually mixed blends are served in custom-designed cups by Heath Ceramics. For more information, visit, or call 415-357-4000. Photo by Henrik Kam: A view of the Rooftop Garden with Alexander Calder’s “Big Crinkly.”


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