S.F. Cancels Multimillion-Dollar Transbay Terminal Art Project

A rendering of Tim Hawkinson's 41-foot sculpture.  (Courtesy of Transbay Transit Center)

A 41-foot-high art installation that the city of San Francisco planned to unveil as part of its new $6 billion Transbay Transit Center has been canceled and its lead artist released from his contract.

The San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) and Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) hired artist Tim Hawkinson to create the installation using materials salvaged from the old Transbay Terminal. It was to be one of five major public art installations planned for the new center.

The art installation was originally budgeted at $1.67 million. But the TJPA and SFAC decided to cancel the project after they realized that the actual cost of completing the artwork would come in around $3.7 million. They also said the project would be overdue and it wouldn’t debut until after the transit center opened.

In a statement released Wednesday, the TJPA said the sculpture “has proven to be a particularly complex engineering task.” The statement cited “the nature of the materials, the sculpture’s size, and its location” as reasons for the cancellation.

In a statement sent to KQED, SFAC spokeswoman Kate Patterson cited many of the same reasons. Patterson also said she hopes SFAC will get to work with the artist again. “Tim Hawkinson is a brilliant artist,” Patterson said.

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The TJPA said it has spent $840,000 of the original budget on salvaging and moving materials for the project and paying Hawkinson his full $200,000 artist fee. The TJPA expects to save $830,000 of the original budget and hasn't said what it plans to do with the remaining money or if it will hire another artist and install a new sculpture.

Hawkinson couldn't be reached for comment. But Dianne Dec, Hawkinson's gallerist, defended the artist. “There have just been extensive delays in the whole construction project,” she said. “But it wasn't an issue that the artist hadn't delivered on his promise.”

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One of San Francisco’s biggest projects to date, the transit center is designed to be a five-story hub that will connect passengers with Caltrain, BART, Muni and Amtrak, among other services. It is also expected to house retail shops and include a 5.4-acre park on its roof.

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