When and how does a reference book become obsolete?
The clearest answer to the question is when the information in it is no longer accurate or is superseded, and more critically, if the inaccuracies in the reference could lead to misinformation or harm.
Often travel guides fall into this category -- hotels, restaurants or attractions may open or close, the prices for attractions and accomodations may have changed. Yet for the locale written about, obsolete travel guides provide a historic perspective and may even reveal unseen features of a place to the reader.
In San Francisco we are fortunate to have many guides for those interested in the arts. Even some of the oldest ones remain important, if for no other reason, than they show the persistence of objects, buildings, and institutions over time.
art-SITES: san francisco: The Indispensible Guide to Contemporary Art-Architecture-Design was published almost 15 years ago. Obviously there have been many changes to the San Francisco Bay Area's cultural landscape over that decade and a half. Nevertheless, this reference book still opens up locations for artistic exploration that might escape the attention of many of us.
Organized geographically, San Francisco itself takes up about 70 percent of the book's pages. And those pages are devoted to the usual districts and neighborhoods -- Union Square, Civic Center, SOMA, the Financial District, Pacific Heights / The Presidio and Golden Gate Park. However, this is one of the few books to look at any of the site-specific art work at the San Francisco International Airport. It also includes the public art in and around the, then newly constructed, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Even more helpfully, it details some of the artwork concealed to many of us in hotels and office buildings.
Many of the Geary Street art galleries are listed and described, detailing the artists they represented. Of course, in the intervening years many of these art galleries have succumbed to market forces and had to close or to move to lower rent districts. art-SITES: San Francisco does capture that moment for those of us who want to remember that scene. Imagine the value of this information for someone creating a novel or a film about San Francisco in the 1990s?
Another way this book works as a time capsule is by documenting some of the street art of that moment. The Luggage Store Gallery gets a nod along with two works of art by a pair of Mission School painters who exhibited there - the husband and wife team of Barry McGee and, our late San Francisco Public Library colleague, Margaret Kilgallen. Both of these art-works were painted on the building's roll-down security doors at 1007 Market Street.
"Untitled" by Margaret Kilgallen
"Untitled" by Barry McGee
Both of these works are still documented on the Luggage Store Gallery's webpage. But a book like this tells us when the works were there and what they meant at that time. Google Street View only came later and gives us a different view:
1007 Market Street captured in Google Street View February 2014
art-SITES san francisco also has short chapters on the South Bay, the East Bay, Marin County and Napa and Sonoma Counties. In the chapter on the South Bay I came across art and architecture at Stanford that I was unaware. On the campus there works of sculpture by Mark Di Suvero, Andy Goldsworthy and Maya Lin. Additionally I learned about two university buildings designed by James Ingo Freed, the architect for the San Francisco Public Library's Main Library.
This reference opens with a directory of entry types -- museums, exhibition and performance spaces, galleries, public art, film centers, architecture, architects, urban planning, parks, gardens, plazas, design and bookstores. It concludes with an index of people, buildings and places.
art-SITES san francisco remains a valuable resource for anyone interested in understanding and exploring the culture of the San Francisco Bay Area.