May 1999 Volume 21 Number 2
Landmark Murals Being Removed from Site-Specific Setting
We would like to bring to the attention of our membership a serious situation currently taking place in San Francisco. The monumental ensemble of site-specific murals by the Tonalist landscape painter Gottardo Piazonni, "The Land" and "The Sea" (1930-31), are being removed from San Francisco's Historic Old Main Library; both murals and library have National Landmark status. Significant interior and exterior architectural features are to be altered and demolished as well.
Despite repeated outcries from local, national, and international art and conservation organizations, and intensive preservation attempts at each point in the civic review process; action at the local level has been ineffectual in halting this destructive renovation to house the new Asian Art Museum. Removal of the murals by a team of conservators has already commenced. Current plans are to replace the murals with windows and move the murals to an as-yet-to-be-determined location elsewhere.
Time and local political options have expired. The removal of these murals and historic building features is of national consequence: that a prominent museum feels itself free to alter and remove cultural property sets a dangerous precedent. This situation challenges the fundamental precepts and ethics of our and other preservation and conservation organizations.
We would like to see all building renovations halted until conservation/preservation issues can be reviewed at a national level. We ask readers to contact colleagues in their respective and allied fields, and contact the members of their governing or executive boards to bring perspective and pressure to save these beautiful murals and their surroundings.
Thank you for whatever effort you are able to devote to this matter. We cannot underestimate the urgent need for your response at this time.
Respectfully submitted,Theresa Andrews, Assoc. Conservator of Photographs/ Works on Paper, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art