Public Art Soars High Into the San Francisco Skyline

June 1, 2018  |   World
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Recently, The New York Times reported that the Salesforce Tower, the second tallest building west of the Mississippi, has taken the concept of public art to new heights in San Francisco.

Campbell, whose electronic artwork you may have seen in permanent collections at the MoMa, Smithsonian American Art Museum, or SFMOMA, holds almost 20 patents in video image processing. “DAY FOR NIGHT” was commissioned by Boston Properties and Hines, the developers of the Salesforce Tower. The artist debuted two sepia-toned dancers on the tower’s top six floors April 2018 in the initial test of the installation. Now, his creation—one of the most visible art projects in the world—takes up the top nine floors with images from Ocean Beach, Golden Gate Park, along the Embarcadero and more. Projections shown each evening will be that of the day’s visuals. Think of it as a video dairy. Taking up roughly two-thirds of the top, he surely crowned San Francisco’s tallest building.
(Photo Bryce Wolkowitz)

Since May 22,2018, 11,000 LEDs projected an ever-changing visual display on the six-story crown of the building. The screen is fed in part by cameras around the city that survey the bay, the weather and activity in a local park.

Jim Campbell, the artist in charge, calls it “Day for Night.” As the city winds down for the evening, it will catch a glimpse of where it has been.

The images are “very abstract — clouds, ocean waves,” Campbell said. “I don’t like street scenes much because they have the feel of a security camera.” But he’s also experimenting with prerecorded images, including dancers from Alonzo King Lines Ballet, a local company.

Campbell, a longtime San Francisco resident, studied mathematics and engineering at MIT. He became a filmmaker and in the mid-1980s started doing interactive video installations. “Day for Night” is a nod to the 1973 Francois Truffaut movie, whose title refers to a process for shooting night scenes during daylight.

See Jim Campbell’s public art project, SWIRL, in downtown Des Moines at Cowles Common.