SF Arts Commission to Vote for Three Initial Treasure Island Art Projects

Rendering from 'Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island Design for Development'  (Photo: Courtesy of Treasure Island Development Authority)

The City of San Francisco is moving closer to finalizing plans for the installation of up to $50 million worth of public art on Treasure Island.

On Wednesday, the San Francisco Arts Commission will review a short list of artists competing to undertake major projects on three sites as part of the city’s renovation of Treasure Island.

Selected from 495 submissions, the list includes art world heavy-hitters like Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, the force behind a highly-trafficked installation on Alcatraz, and Britain’s Andy Goldsworthy, who has several works in the Presidio as well as a piece outside the de Young Museum.

"Some of the things that excited the committee were the range of expressions that the artists have," says Treasure Island Development Authority director Robert Beck. "They could develop something unique that's responsive to the site, its history and its environment. They also have a track record of having delivered pieces that are of the scale anticipated for the sites."

Among the finalists is just one Bay Area artist, sculptor Ned Kahn, who is listed as an "alternate."

'Rain Oculus', an environmental art work located in Sigapore by Bay Area artist Ned Kahn.
'Rain Oculus', an environmental art work located in Singapore by Bay Area artist Ned Kahn. (Photo: Courtesy of Ned Kahn)

"If one of the other artists doesn't want to do it, or is too busy, they call me," explains Kahn, who has created around 100 public art projects around the world over the past 30 years, including major local commissions for the San Francisco Transbay Terminal and the San Francisco Utilities Commission. "It's kind of like losing the last game of your season or not qualifying for the playoffs."

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As an artist who has undertaken many projects in foreign cities where his work was prioritized over that of locals, Kahn isn't too put out about being selected as an alternate at home. He also points out that the city plans to install dozens more art installations beyond the initial three.

"This is just chapter one," Kahn says. "I hope as the project develops that there will be other opportunities that will lend themselves more to local people. So it might be that the feathers get unruffled down the road."

The Treasure Island Development Authority reflects Kahn's viewpoint. "This will ultimately be a fairly extensive art program," Beck says. "There has been a desire expressed by the Arts Commission and the Arts Steering Committee to pursue both a range of local, national and international artists."

The Arts Steering Committee comprises members of the San Francisco Arts Commission, the Treasure Island Development Authority, and the real estate developer. Kahn says this committee will have the final say on the selection of artists and placement of their work on the island.

The plaza outside the administrative building, a proposed site for one of the initial three Treasure Island art commissions.
The plaza outside the Navy administration building, a proposed site for one of the initial three Treasure Island art commissions. (Photo: Courtesy of Treasure Island Development Authority)

After Wednesday's review, the shortlist will go the Arts Steering Committee, which will then vote on the Arts Commission’s recommendations and authorize the artists to proceed with developing their proposals for the sites.

The three initial commissions are expected to have budgets in the range of $1–$2 million. The locations for these projects are:

  • The plaza in front of the old Navy administration building, known as Plaza 1.
  • Waterfront Plaza, on the shore facing San Francisco.
  • Yerba Buena Hilltop Park, a new area to be constructed.

Beck says the selected artists' proposals should be ready for public comment by spring 2018. The plans will be put on display at a location to be determined, most likely at the Veterans Building in San Francisco or on Treasure Island.

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