Legion of Honor reopens in time for Halloween

‘A Gothic Tale’ among exhibitions on view

While some European institutions including the Louvre Museum are being shut again by the pandemic, in San Francisco, re-openings are the order of the day. The latest among them is the Legion of Honor of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

The historic Richmond District building, a replica of Palais de la Légion d’Honneur in Paris, was shuttered in March under The City’s temporary closure and shelter-in-place order.

The Legion of Honor will open to the public on Friday, just in time for the Halloween weekend, even featuring Alexandre Singh’s “A Gothic Tale,” a topical show.

The installation includes Singh’s short film “The Appointment,” a mystery inspired by 19th century European literature that pays homage to San Francisco’s place in in film noir history.

The 20-minute locally produced film, shown continuously in Gallery 1, is deliberately confusing and thrilling. It’s a saga of good and evil, transfer of identity into other bodies, and dealing with the unknown and frightening — with parallels obvious in 2020.

Conceptualized with art historian Natalie Musteata, the exhibition, with its dizzying floor design, focuses on the “fantastical and supernatural qualities of the Gothic tradition,” and includes complementary prints, sculptures and paintings drawn from the Fine Arts Museums’ collection and installed on mirrored walls.

At the newly reopened site, health and safety measures include reduction of visitor numbers to below 25 percent of capacity, admission by timed ticket to ensure social distancing and masks required for staff and adult visitors.

As a possible benefit from the reduced attendance, the traditionally difficult parking around the museum may ease up for a while.

The Legion of Honor invites visitors wearing masks back to the museum. (Courtesy Gary Sexton/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco)

The Legion of Honor invites visitors wearing masks back to the museum. (Courtesy Gary Sexton/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco)

All of the museum’s famed collections are on view again, including European Paintings, European Decorative Arts, European Sculpture and Ancient Art.

In the Works on Paper department, Friday also marks the opening of “The Book of Now: Dieter Roth and Ed Ruscha,” about two artists in the 1960s working in different styles, both revolutionizing the way to work in the medium of books.

Coming from Italy, the exhibition “Last Supper in Pompeii: From the Table to the Grave,” depicting life in BCE 79 as the ash from Mount Vesuvius began to rain down on Pompeii, has been postponed due to pandemic-era uncertainties. The opening date has not been announced.

Slated to open in February 2021 is Kenyan-American artist Wangechi Mutu’s “I Am Speaking, Are You Listening?” a site-specific exhibition of new sculpture, collage and film. Three years in the making, the show, curators say, “invites visitors into an alternate universe of powerful female characters, hybrid beings and fantastical landscapes, challenging traditional art histories, mythologies and conventional techniques of archiving and remembering.”

The Legion’s sister organization, the de Young museum, reopened in September. “The deYoung Open Exhibition,” “Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving” and “Uncanny Valley: Being Human in the Age of AI” are on view.

IF YOU GO

Legion of Honor

Where: 100 34th Ave., S.F.

When: 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Tuesdays–Sundays

Tickets: $15 general; discounts for students and seniors, free on first Saturday each month

Contact: (415) 750-3600, legionofhonor.org

Note: Tickets must be reserved for a particular time in advance; visit famsf.org

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