Art & Artifacts in San Francisco

I visited San Francisco in May 2013 to attend a wedding. Since it was just a weekend jaunt, I didn’t write a travel blog, but wanted to share a few of my favorite finds from that trip.

The Xanadu Art Gallery was housed in the only Frank Lloyd Wright building in San Francisco. Its interior design mirrors the Guggenheim but on a much smaller scale, with a spiral ramp that hugs the walls and gradually moves you from the ground to the upper levels, leaving the center of the gallery to be lit from a combination of lighting just below the roof.

After admiring the architecture, my attentions turned to the artifacts from across Africa and Asia, many of which were for sale. One of the pieces that caught my eye was a tiny chop carved from crystal, the first I had ever seen that was not jade or some other opaque stone. An attentive salesman kindly unlocked the cabinet so I could hold it in my hand. At $800 I still regret not buying it.

I returned the chop to its case, thanked the salesman, and started to leave, when he asked me if I had seen the textiles. Textiles? “Yes, the ones in the drawers along the wall on the upper floor”. “Uh, no, I did not…” I followed him back up the spiral, and spent another hour pouring through every drawer in the cabinets.

One of a pair of embroidered Chinese sleeve bands at the Xanadu Gallery.

Sadly, this gallery closed in 2015. The rest of my photos are here.

I also visited the Asian Art Museum, which I would return to later that night to see my friend get married. Again, I spent some time just admiring the architecture before turning my attention to the artifacts. Here are some of my favorites:

Rattan bowler, Japanese, 1880’s. The artist was Hayakawa Shokosai, whose works were made famous by a turn of the century Kabuki actor, Ichikawa Danjuuro IX, whose star power inspired the rattan bowler to become a hallmark of fashion for Japanese dandies. This is a rare surviving example.

Japanese chainmail, Edo Period. This detail shot of the very fine chainmail from a suit of Samurai armor shows coin-pattern discs set into it. These links are flat and about 1/4″ or less in diameter.

Dragon and Feline belt hook, gilt bronze, Eastern Zhou dynasty, Warring Period (475-221 BCE). This is the Chinese version of a belt buckle.

You can see the rest of my favorites on Pinterest.

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