Friday, June 13, 2008

SF's "Jewseum" Opens to Acclaim of Chosen-People Celebs

By By Deborah Schoeneman

Storah On The Road

It could have been the San Francisco Sex and the City premiere party. Last Saturday night, over 1,000 people were turned away at the door, while 3,000 made it in, decked out in decidedly more flashy outfits than typical for the fleece-and-crocs locale. It was the grand opening of the new Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, and a celebration of the holiday Shavuot rolled into an all-night cultural arts festival called DAWN. The $47.5 million building (designed by Daniel Libeskind as an addition to a brick, circa-1907 power company substation) opens onto a new public plaza across the street from the Yerba Buena Gardens, just a block away from the SF Musem of Modern Art.

The most striking element of Libeskind’s design is a two-story, dark blue cube turned on its side—a stark contrast to the classic brick original structure, designed by Willis Polk. A similar cube sticks out of the roof. At 63,000 square-feet, the Jewseum only features 9,500 square-feet of exhibition galleries. There’s no permanent collection, and the current show features artists including Matthew Ritchie and Barnett Newman.

Though the mood at the opening was festive (think bar mitzvah for the Seinfeld set), the lighting was downright terrible. Flourescent corridors and foyers would have made Jewess patron saint Natalie Portman lunge for some sunglasses, had she been in attendance. Instead, the boldfaced names were a smattering of San Francisco society, including Nancy Pelosi’s son Paul, fashion designer Julie Chaiken, museum benefactor Roselyn “Sissy” Swig, Friendster founder Jonathan Abrams, and Skyy Vodka heir Jeff Kanbar.

The performers (many part of Reboot, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting Jewish heritage and culture) included author Jonathan Safran Foer, television writer Jill Soloway (Six Feet Under) and Josh Radnor of the television show How I Met Your Mother, who read an essay he wrote about having Britney Spears guest star as his love interest. The band Dengue Fever performed, and Webby Awards founder Tiffany Shlain and her husband, Ken Goldberg, created an interactive installation with video and sound based on the breaking of glass in Kristallnacht and the Jewish wedding ceremony. At midnight, hipster rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie presented I-Vow-Now, a ritual marking the sacred tradition of the sky opening up at midnight on Shavuot. He asked partygoers to make a vow, while video art projected behind him and Scotty the Blue Bunny, a New York performance artist, screamed out his own vows—many of which were not particularly kosher.

*Images taken from BlackBook

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