Arts archive boasts new look

San Francisco’s splendid Performing Arts Library & Museum has renewed itself, spectacularly so, and changed its name to the Museum of Performance & Design.

On Saturday, MPD (admittedly, less appealing than PALM) threw itself a re-opening party, and a wondrous event it was.

Linked with The City’s ballet company from its foundation in 1947 by dancer and costume designer Russell Hartley, the restructured museum’s first exhibit is “Art & Artifice: 75 Years of Design at San Francisco Ballet.”

As long as the ballet — “America’s oldest” — is celebrating that unique diamond anniversary, the museum opening was coupled with a reunion party for the San Francisco Ballet, with the participation of artists whose careers go back to near the beginning of the company.

Alphabetically (from Tilly Abbe to Alexi Zubiria) and chronologically (from Jocelyn Vollmar, the first Snow Queen in the country’s first “Nutcracker” in 1944, to choreographer Val Caniparoli, still dancing with the company), more than 150 famed artists converged at the museum re-opening. Some were from around the corner, others from overseas.

The party is over, but the exhibit remains, a free show on the fourth floor of the War Memorial Building, right next to the Opera House.

In place of the library (which was moved to the north side of the building), there is now a stunning new 3,000-square-foot main gallery, packed full of the “Art & Artifice” ballet memorabilia.

The exhibit, curated by Brad Rosenstein, William Eddleman and Melissa Leventon, is a whirl of costumes, sketches, rare photographs, printed programs and video, going back to influences from the Ballets Russes. (Don’t miss Caniparoli’s “Lambarena” excerpt on the big screen.)

In addition to exhibits, the museum offers collections, archives and a library containing more than 3 million items having to do with The City’s artistic history and legacy — all accessible to the public.

An announcement is pending about the museum getting its own building in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts within a few years.

Board President Cherie Mohrfeld, Museum Director David R. Humphrey and an advisory council which includes John Adams, Marilyn Horne, Natalia Makarova and Frederica von Stade are working on further developing the Center for Stage Design, an international forum utilizing the museum’s own holdings and the Eiko Ishioka Archives, a recent acquisition.

MPD is continuing and expanding PALM’s community outreach, with programming including performances, lectures, screenings and publications.

IF YOU GO

Art & Artifice: 75 Years of Design at San Francisco Ballet

Where: Museum of Performance & Design, Fourth Floor, 401 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco

When: Noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; show closes Aug. 30

Tickets: Free

Contact: (415) 255-4800 or www.sfpalm.org

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