First Thursdays at the prestigious address are always intellectually, perhaps even spiritually satisfying, not only for art's enriching effect on the mind and soul, but also because, as with any intellectual or spiritual pursuit, you must suffer physical discomforts, deprivations, and abstentions to achieve enlightenment. The elevators are invariably so busy you don't bother to take them from floor to floor in the five-story complex, and instead opt to squeeze past the corridor texters to schlep the cold stone stairs, regretting the high heels you thought looked so Helmut Newton.
The galleries are lit and kept at a similar temperature to Whole Foods' hot buffet, and when you visit one of the few that offer refreshment, you are given a plastic cup of water that would be enough to soak your contacts in. You find yourself lingering near the refreshment stand, pretending to find whatever art happens to be nearby particularly mesmerizing, and return three or four times, hand outstretched like some sweaty, blotchy Oliver Twist in senseless shoes and Rorschach mascara cheeks: "Please, intern, can I have some more?"
To be sure, notable works were on display at the venerable art-mall. But first, 49 Geary, I'll speak of your First Thursday competition. Its name is the San Francisco Jazz Heritage Center.There, famed 1960s rock photographer Robert Altman gave a multimedia presentation in conjunction with "Presenting Bill Graham," an exhibit on the impresario's existence at Lush Life Gallery. First of all, there was food! Four kinds of cheese squares, homemade guacamole for at least five types of crackers and chips, little meat-and-veggie wraps, and a brownie platter. Yes, a whole platter of brownies with some apricot squares thrown in for color. A pneumatic bartender served drinks I've only ever seen in hip-hop videos. And the people! There are usually a few oddball types at 49 Geary who dress as though dressing itself were an artistic act, but this party in the lower Fillmore looked gloriously like Las Vegas enjoying a sweet love-in with Woodstock. On show were silver pleather, camouflage ballgowns, accessory poodles, flowers-in-hair, fringe fringed with fringe, Pucci-print-pants, blue fox hats, Sgt. Pepper blazers, ripped fishnet body stockings, and steampunk leather belt pouches.
(I do have to give props to 49 Geary's ModernBook Gallery, which served gumdrops and cashews at its booksale.)
Next: 49 Geary scores high on art.