On Thursday, the day after SFMOMA's big Art Bash, there will be a public unveiling of the newly installed digital mural piece by French artist JR titled "The Chronicles of San Francisco."
The black-and-white, animated "mural" will live in the free-to-enter Roberts Family Gallery, off the Howard Street lobby, which was most recently home to the large-scale Richard Serra piece Sequence. (Curbed tells us that the piece has now been reinstalled at Stanford University.)
As museum director Neal Benezra explains, he had been looking for years for ways to incorporate street art — which JR originally became known for — into the museum. "From 1930, when our founding director, Grace McCann Morley, persuaded Diego Rivera to come to San Francisco to complete a series of mural commissions, our city has been home to a rich and expressly democratic tradition of paintings made for the public," Benezra says. "JR’s project, which captures a unique portrait of our extraordinary and idiosyncratic city, is the perfect opportunity to bring art from the street into our museum’s free art-filled ground floor."
JR did a digital mural like this for his neighborhood in Paris, and now his second similar effort focuses on the people of San Francisco. He set up a trailer-sized mobile photographic studio at 22 different locations around the city in January and February of 2018, allowing anyone who wanted to to participate. The resulting collage of humanity features 1,200 people including local celebrities like Draymond Green, Cleve Jones, and Gov. Gavin Newsom, as well as drag queens, homeless men and women, shop owners, protesters, and more. All the participants were filmed, photographed, and interviewed — and visitors to the gallery will be able to hear the interviews via iPad kiosks beside the 100-foot-wide, seamless screen of the mural.
Inspired directly by the murals of Diego Rivera, JR says, "The mural aims to be a picture of society, not depicting good and bad, but rather showing that both sides are present in everyone. Every person is presented at the same size, captured with the same light. No one is more important than another."
"The Chronicles of San Francisco" will live in the lobby gallery until Fall 2020, when it will be replaced by Diego Rivera's "Pan American Unity," which will be installed in conjunction with a major retrospective of Rivera's work.