Giant spider is S.F.’s newest public artwork

Stanlee Gatti, the former head of the San Francisco Arts Commission raised eyebrows 10 years ago when he said he’d like to see a 40-foot-tall spider by famed artist Louise Bourgeois on the dome at City Hall.

While not hanging on high, “Crouching Spider” — a 27-foot-long bronze and stainless steel arachnid — was installed this week on San Francisco’s waterfront, at Pier 14, south of The City’s Ferry Building. The sculpture is one of a series done by the French-born artist, who has said they are tributes to her mother. The spiders havebeen displayed at the Tate Modern museum in London and Rockefeller Center in New York City, among other venues.

Bourgeois’ spider is on loan to San Francisco for a period of eight months or longer, and the artist is not charging a fee for her work, according to Jill Manton, the director of the public arts program for the San Francisco Arts Commission. The City is picking up the $50,000 tab for the sculpture’s transport, installation, maintenance and insurance coverage in the amount of $6 million.

Although The City will sponsor an official celebration for “Crouching Spider” on Thursday, the larger-than-life sculpture is already attracting attention since it was installed last week.

“In San Francisco, we can get away with stuff that in other cities would be problematic,” said San Franciscan Steve Sanders, a commercial real estate professional admiring the spider during his lunch hour. “I think this one will generate more love-hate.”

It wouldn’t be the first time a piece of public art in The City did that, Gatti said.

In 2004, Gatti, who was appointed by former Mayor Willie Brown, resigned from his post, following contentious battles over several pieces of public art that he wanted to see installed, including a 40-foot-tall Tony Labat peace sign at one of the entrances to Golden Gate Park and a $500,000 steel foot planned for The Embarcadero.

“If somebody wanted to bring Michelangelo’s ‘David’ here, there would be controversy in San Francisco,” Gatti said.

beslinger@examiner.com

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