San Francisco’s Legion of Honor museum is set to reopen next month, on May 7, with two new exhibits — one of which celebrates the culture of food and drink in Pompeii, which the museum's director says was “kind of the Sonoma Valley of ancient Rome.”
While sister museum the deYoung reopened to the public in early March, the Legion of Honor has waited for more restrictions to be lifted. It will open to members of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) on May 5, and then to the general public on the 7th, the museum announced Thursday. Online ticket purchases are encouraged, and those go on sale next week, on April 14.
"We’re all very excited that the end of this long period of constraint seems to be in sight," says Thomas P. Campbell, director and CEO of FAMSF, in a statement to the Chronicle. "That said, we’re still taking quite a cautious approach for the safety of our staff and visitors."
Like the deYoung's rules, museum-goers are asked to stay six feet apart and remain masked indoors, and not to enter the museum if you are feeling sick. And there's a bunch of hygiene theater with hand sanitation stations the wiping of high-touch surfaces.
When the Legion of Honor welcomes the public back in, there will be two new exhibits to see. One, which originated at Oxford in 2019, is titled "Last Supper in Pompeii: From the Table to the Grave," and FAMSSF Ancient Art and Interpretation curator Renee Dreyfus has expanded the show with items from the museums' own collections.
The exhibit features 150 objects, including Roman sculpture, mosaics, frescoes, and precious metals, all around the theme of food, drink, and celebration in Pompeii before its destruction by Mount Vesuvius erupting in 79 A.D.
Comparing Pompeii to Sonoma, Campbell says, the theme of "feasting and rituals of food in the shadow of the destruction of Pompeii" took on new meaning since the exhibition was first being planned, with so many of us having our own brushes with mortality and needing to refrain from gathering.
"That tempus fugit sense is very much at the heart of the exhibition," Campbell tells the Chronicle.
The other new exhibit features the work of Kenyan American artist Wangechi Mutu, in a show titled "I Am Speaking, Are You Listening?" Mutu, a Brooklyn-based multimedia artist, is known for large-scale collages, sculpture, and video works, and her pieces will be on display in the museum's courtyard and in the Rodin Galleries.
Campbell tells the Chronicle that Mutu's works provide a "poetic counterpoint" to the Legion of Honor's collection, which was "made for white Europeans who prospered from global expansion and colonialism."
The "Last Supper" show is on through August 29, and Wangechi Mutu's work will be up through November 7.
Another exhibition that will be on for another month after the museum reopens is "The Book of Now: Dieter Roth and Ed Ruscha," featuring the limited edition artist's books produced by Dieter Roth and California artist Ed Ruscha.