Bridging the SF Bay

By From page B14 | January 31, 2014

Bay BridgeThe Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco are pleased to present “The Bay Bridge: A Work in Progress, 1933–1936,” opening at the de Young on Saturday, Feb. 1.

Documenting the original construction of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge in the 1930s, the exhibition includes 72 photographs, prints and drawings from the museums’ collection. The bridge’s modern engineering inspired many artists to capture its bold industrial forms and commemorate the heroism of the workers who built it.

This exhibition presents a newly acquired group of 38 photographs by Peter Stackpole (1913–1997), the first works by this important Bay Area photographer to enter the museums’ collection.

“This acquisition furthers the museums’ goal to add depth to our holdings of work by California photographers, a truly exciting aspect of our collection,” noted Colin B. Bailey, director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Over the course of three intense years, at great personal risk, Stackpole scaled the dizzying heights of the unfinished structure and moved freely among the construction workers to tell their story of death-defying labor in a series of striking photographs.

“Stackpole’s Bay Bridge photographs are among the most accomplished of his long career, and we’re thrilled to add them to the collection,” said James A. Ganz, curator of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

The exhibition includes prints and drawings by other Bay Area artists, many of whom conducted their practice and earned their living under the auspices of San Francisco’s Federal Art Project.

These include works by Dong Kingman (1911–2000) and Otis Oldfield (1890–1969), and a small selection of original studies from the firm of renowned San Francisco architect Timothy Pflueger (1892–1946), who contributed to the design of the original Bay Bridge.

As many as 8,000 men worked on the construction of the Bay Bridge and the exhibition highlights the vital role of these laborers, as well as the technical audacity of this engineering feat.

Following the recent completion of the new eastern span, “The Bay Bridge: A Work in Progress” is a celebration of the grand ambition, unprecedented innovation and irrepressible personalities behind one of the most important public works projects in California history.

This exhibition is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

The de Young Museum is in Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive in San Francisco and is open 9:30 a.m.–5:15 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, open select holidays and closed most Mondays.

For more information on “The Bay Bridge: A Work in Progress, 1933–1936″ visit

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, comprising the de Young in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, are the largest public arts institution in San Francisco.

The de Young originated from the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition and was established as the Memorial Museum. Thirty years later, it was renamed in honor of Michael H. de Young, a longtime champion of the museum.

The present copper-clad landmark building, designed by Herzog and de Meuron, opened in October 2005. It showcases the institution’s significant collections of American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from the 17th to the 21st centuries; art from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas; costume and textile arts; and international contemporary art.

The Legion of Honor was inspired by the French pavilion, a replica of the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur in Paris, at San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915. The museum opened in 1924 in the Beaux Arts–style building designed by George Applegarth on a bluff overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Its holdings span 4,000 years and include European painting, sculpture, and decorative arts; ancient art from the Mediterranean basin; and the largest collection of works on paper in the American West.

Fine Arts

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