The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday February 4th

Great Escapes - San Francisco, California

The building, designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta, provides a perfect container to the ever-changing collection of 20th century painting and sculpture, a collection that constantly challenges the viewer to see what's really there.

This collection includes a white and gold porcelain sculpture that, on first glance, appears to be a religious icon holding a child.

However, upon closer examination, it is actually revealed to be Michael Jackson with a monkey.

The museum also includes a Lichtenstein print of multicolored polka dots -- close up, they're gibberish, but from a distance, they actually create an image of Rouen Cathedral in France.

Another image by Andy Warhol silk-screens multiple images of Elizabeth Taylor from "National Velvet."

And also, one artist parroted Leonardo di Vinci's "The Last Supper" by recreating it in caramel. Inspired or heretical, it's hard to say.

But perhaps the most surreal piece is called "Things Fall Apart" by Sarah Size, which involves a Jeep Cherokee hacked apart and decorated with pipe cleaners and its own insulation, among other items, to appear as though it's at the bottom of the ocean.

What complicates matters is that the various pieces are situated on ascending levels of the main staircase, providing a piece of art that visitors see in stages as they move from one gallery to the next.

Call it postmodern or pop art or whatever, but this is SFMOMA's forte.

Despite that, other traditionally modern artists can be found within the museum's walls. An impressive selection of Matisse is housed in its own wing.

The current photography exhibit showcases Edward Weston, who did a lot of work on the beaches along the Monterey Peninsula but also photographed bell peppers and cabbage in ways that made them unrecognizable.

But perhaps the most striking work of modern art is the museum itself. The five-story rectangular structure has striped granite walls leading up to a central oculus that lets in the San Francisco sunlight.

The top floor includes a metallic bridge through the sunlit turret that offers views to the atrium 75 feet below and to the equally picturesque Yerba Buena Gardens across the street.

The heavy stone walls provide a calm sanctuary from the surrounding bustle and, save for the occasional sounds of nearby construction equipment, provide a serene bubble in the middle of a hectic city.

Much of the art in SFMOMA makes you do a double take, requiring further inspection. There's no better place to find the atmosphere for such heavy contemplation.

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at

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