City by the Bay Meets the Windy City

When a splashy exhibit of Chicago architecture opened this summer in the Windy City, a noted critic charged that the show’s jazzy, theatrical presentation nearly overwhelmed its content.

That’s something visitors to San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art, where “Chicago Architecture: 1872-1922" runs through Dec. 4, won’t have to worry about, says Paolo Polledri, SFMMA curator of architecture and design.

“It’s not theatrical at all,” said Polledri, who organized the San Francisco installation. “Especially since our budget was 1/20 of their ($200,000) budget.

“But I felt that the Beaux Arts building (in which the SFMMA is housed) didn’t need an awful lot of props because its exterior and interior were already sympathetic to the Chicago architecture of that period.”


And, there’s plenty to dazzle and inform in the San Francisco version, Polledri said.

With architectural drawings and models, archival photographs, decorative art objects and furniture, the 200-piece show documents the architectural history of Chicago during the seminal 50-year period that followed the city’s devastating fire of 1871.

Organized by the Art Institute of Chicago, it begins with preliminary plans for the city’s reconstruction prepared by American and European architects and ends with designs for the international Chicago Tribune Tower Competition in 1922.

“There are various sections in the show,” Polledri said. “One explores the roots of Chicago architecture and the influence of European architects. But the larger part is really devoted to work of most celebrated architects of the era, such as Louis H. Sullivan, Daniel Burnham and Frank Lloyd Wright.”


Among the highlights on view are three stained-glass windows placed in museum window sills in a room entirely devoted to the pioneering Wright. “They are gorgeous,” Polledri said. “One is full of primary colors, greens, reds, blues and white with an American flag in one corner.”

Then, there’s several drawings for commercial buildings designed by Burnham that became “the prototype of many buildings that remained a standard of American architecture,” the curator said.

And one room focuses entirely on Sullivan’s form of ornamentation, juxtaposing his drawings with an elaborately decorated cast bronze door, for instance.

“Everyone has heard of Sullivan and admired the incredibly intricate designs on his buildings,” Polledri said. “But few have had a chance to see how his system of design integrates with the architecture.

“On the whole, the exhibit provides both an historic and artistic context to the works displayed,” he added. “And that’s important.”

The first five films of the ambitious Program for Art on Film have been completed and three more have been commissioned.

The four-year-old program, a joint venture of the J. Paul Getty Trust and New York’s Metropolitan Museum, is dedicated to making movies about pre-20th Century art and employs accomplished film and video producers and leading art scholars. The recently finished films explore the Gothic cathedral of Beauvais, a 17th-Century Chinese scroll painting--as interpreted by David Hockney--funerary painting of Roman Egypt, Giorgione’s Tempest painting, and Rome’s Trevi fountain.

According to program officials, these films are to shown across the country at professional symposia, festivals and conferences beginning this fall. Public screenings have not been scheduled.


The newly-commissioned films, expected to be completed in 1989, examine the phenomena of natural light and its representation in Western European art, the Japanese rock and gravel garden of Ryoan-ji, and Mimbres pottery.

A conference designed to help visual artists and crafts persons more effectively market their work will be held Saturday and next Sunday at Irvine Valley College.

Speakers scheduled for the California Arts Marketing Conference include Robert Reid, director of the California Arts Council and Romalyn Tilghman, regional representative for the National Endowment for the Arts. Among topics to be discussed are the changing art marketplace, publicity, foundation and governmental funding and legal issues.

The conference, which runs from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days, is sponsored by the California Assembly of Local Arts Agencies and Irvine Valley College, located at the intersection of Irvine Center Drive and Jeffrey Road in Irvine. Registration at the door is $85. Information: (213) 690-2860.

More parking is now available for visitors to the Museum of Contemporary Art on Grand Avenue. For $4 and a MOCA validation, visitors may park at the 5-Star lot on First and Hope streets for four hours, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The lot is about one block north of MOCA, with entrances on First and Hope.