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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

San Francisco's 10 Best Public Sculptures

Posted By on Tue, Apr 24, 2012 at 9:30 AM

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BRYAN MALESZYK /  FLICKR

7. Willie Mays statue at AT&T Park

This is the sculpture that legendary outfielder Willie Mays always deserved. Depicting Mays at the end of a home-run swing, it has Mays -- bat in hand -- looking toward the outfield stands as the ball (we imagine) sails majestically over the fence. North Carolina sculptor William Behrends has captured the strength and the pride that emanated from every one of Mays' swings. Located at the corner of Third and King streets, in front of the main entrance to AT&T Park, the Mays sculpture is one of many impressive player sculptures on the ballpark's perimeter that bear Behrends' name.

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FRANCO FOLINI / FLICKR

6. Large Four Piece Reclining Figure at Louise M. Davies Hall

Made by Henry Moore when he was in his 70s, Large Four Piece Reclining Figure at Van Ness and Grove has many of the British artist's signature traits: concave forms, open space that lets the parts breathe in the middle, and an abstracted design that plays with the viewer's imagination. In the history of art from the past 100 years, Moore is a towering presence. Sixty-six U.S. cities have Moore's art on display, but this is one of the best examples of his work in the United States.

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SON OF GROUCHO / FLICKR

5. Harvey Milk bust inside City Hall

Near the entrance to the Board of Supervisors chambers, the sculpture depicts Supervisor Harvey Milk with a fervent smile on his face. Below are words from a speech that Milk gave in 1978 -- the same year he was assassinated in the building where his bust now sits: "I ask for the movement to continue because my election gave young people out there hope. You gotta give 'em hope." The sculpture also features a relief of people marching in a candlelight vigil the night that Milk and Mayor George Moscone were killed. It was designed by a Berkeley sculpture group headed by Eugene Daub, Rob Firmin, and Jonah Hendrickson and placed in City Hall in 2008, when Milk would have been 78.

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MIKE LINKSVAYER / FLICKR

4. Ruth Asawa collection inside the de Young Museum

It's easy to miss the de Young Museum's permanent (free-to-see) collection of Ruth Asawa's brilliant wire sculpture. Instead of heading into the main galleries, go toward the administrative offices, in the direction of the elevator to the Harmon Observation Tower, and you'll be in the company of 15 works that Asawa donated to the museum. The bulbous ones that cascade from the ceiling almost to the floor are the most intense, casting shadows on the walls that are themselves a sight to behold. Asawa's artwork is featured at various San Francisco venues, but the de Young is where her distinct wire sculpture is given the freedom to spread out and really make use of its exhibition space.

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