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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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ELIZALO / FLICKR

3. Pink Bunny in the Lower Haight

For years, the former campus of UC Berkeley Extension -- particularly its Haight Street wall, between Laguna and Buchanan -- was a magnet for unseemly graffiti, but the past few years have seen an explosion of noteworthy street art, and a denouement of sorts occurred in 2011 with the placement of a giant pink bunny at the campus' northeast corner. The toothy sculpture is the creation of Jeremy Fish, a San Francisco artist who specializes in doing edgy interpretations of bunnies, skulls, and other figures. Fish's pink bunny-skull sculpture -- surrounded by a wall of painted bunnies that are either smiling or quizzical -- commands the intersection of Laguna and Haight like a stoplight that continuously blinks in red.

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2. Richard Serra's Charlie Brown inside the Gap building

San Francisco is fortunate to have two Serra sculptures on public display: Ballast at UCSF Mission Bay, and Charlie Brown inside the Gap headquarters at 2 Folsom. Both are towering steel edifices that invite close inspection but also delight from afar. If you only have time to see one, though, make it Charlie Brown, which turns the atrium of the building into a Louvre-like hall where the light, acoustics and art mesh in ideal symmetry. And with Charlie Brown, you can walk inside the sculpture itself, making this piece much more interactive than other prominent sculptures in San Francisco.

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1. Keith Haring Untitled (Three Dancing Figures) at Howard and Third Streets

How many people have walked by these colorful figures and smiled for at least a moment? Fifty thousand? Half a million? Three million? The sculpture has been on the southeast corner of Howard and Third since 1989, and its three dancers -- red, yellow and blue -- are as energetic as any that Haring ever drew. The only thing missing: the trademark Haring dashes that hover over his figures to indicate movement. On a sculpture like this, those in-the-air dashes aren't required. The sculpture's location -- close to SFMOMA, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Museum of the African Diaspora, and the Cartoon Art Museum -- make it a required stop in this part of San Francisco.

Update: We heard from Kate Patterson at the San Francisco Arts Commission that the Haring sculpture has been temporarily removed for renovation. We're told it will be back this summer. In the meantime, see several shots of it via Flickr user Wally Gobetz.

A runners-up list would include the lighted book sculpture at Broadway and Columbus, the Hard Bop sculpture in Fillmore Center Plaza (at O'Farrell), the Dancing Sprites fountain at Huntington Park (California and Taylor), and the Abyssinian statue on Fulton by the Asian Art Museum. And don't forget about SFMOMA, which has a rooftop sculpture garden that -- like the rest of the museum -- is free to visit the first Tuesday of every month. In fact, San Francisco is blessed with so much worthwhile sculpture that a Top 100 list is probably in order.

For more events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.

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Jonathan Curiel

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