Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The California Palace of the Legion of Honor: A San Francisco Museum

The California Palace of the Legion of Honor is located in Lincoln Park in the northwest part of San Francisco. The building alone is a work of art as it's a three-quarters scale imitation of the Hotel de Salm in Paris. An interesting piece of little known history is that the Lincoln Park Golf Course that surrounds the museum was once the site of the Golden Gate Cemetery. The bodies were moved down to Colma, CA in 1908 when the cemetery was closed; however, in the 1990s when the city was doing seismic retrofitting of the surrounding park, coffins and skeletal remains were still unearthed. Very cool history for a very cool spot in the city. Also, the beautiful historic building is a popular backdrop for couples taking their engagement pictures as well as day-of pictures with their wedding party.

The name is used for both the museum building and the collection it houses. The Legion's collection spans more than 6,000 years of ancient and European art. Some of the collection highlights and my favorites are: St. John the Baptist by El Greco (1600), The Trotting Horse by Edgar Degas (1881), and Waterlilies by Claude Monet (1914). The museum has a variety of classic and innovative traveling exhibitions. I've seen a traveling exhibit of beautiful Cartier jewelry and works from the Louvre and Museum de Orsay.

Currently the Legion is showcasing Pulp Fashon: The Art of Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave. de Borchgrave creates fashion literally out of manipulating paper. The exhibition features masterpieces of intricate paper clothing inspired by early European paintings or from famous museum pieces from around the world. The exhibit is somewhat of a history of fashion from such famous individuals as the Medici family, Elizabeth I, Marie-Antoinette and Christian Dior, and Coco Chanel, to name a few. The pieces are literally amazing and its mind boggling how she was able to create these extraordinary pieces of clothing (and shoes) out of paper. The Legion is the first American museum to dedicate an entire exhibition to these works of textile art.

The exhibit costs $15 for adults, $12 seniors, $11 for kids 6-17 and college students with ID. The museum is open from 9:30am to 5:15pm and has a delicious cafe with outdoor seating.

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