It's the 'Summer of Love' again in SF, 50 years later

By Lia Zhu in San Francisco | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-05-05 10:59
It's the 'Summer of Love' again in SF, 50 years later

For those who come to San Francisco, summertime will be a love-in there ...

Fifty years after the 1967 hit song San Francisco (written by John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas and sung by Scott McKenzie) was released, Chinese visitors who come to the city this summer will have a chance to relive the "Summer of Love", the apex of hippie culture, at the de Young Museum.

On view through Aug 20, the exhibit Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll presents more than 300 significant cultural artifacts, including rock concert posters, hippie fashion, light shows and rock music, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the colorful counterculture that blossomed surrounding the summer of 1967 in San Francisco.

That summer was a defining moment in San Francisco's history, and the work created during the period remains a significant legacy, said Max Hollein, director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

"The artists in the show were inspired by world cultures, including Asian, Native American, and Central American cultures. It's wonderful to see how these diverse inspirations were synthesized by the hippies," he said. "I think getting a glimpse into their life in San Francisco and the way they expressed themselves in fashion, music and art will appeal to young Chinese people today."

In the mid-1960s, artists, activists, writers, and musicians converged on the Haight-Ashbury district with hopes of creating a new social paradigm - as many as 100,000 young people from around the nation descended on the neighborhood. Hippies also came to be known as "flower children", who often wore flowers as a sign of peace.

The exhibition features the events leading up to the Summer of Love, the importance of the Haight-Ashbury area and its playground Golden Gate Park, and some famous concerts.

The exhibition also investigates the movement's aesthetic content. Rock-poster artists and fashion designers layered stereotypical imagery of the American West alongside aesthetic styles borrowed from the Victorian era and Far Eastern cultures in their work, often in response to the city's growing music industry.

Immersive environments were created for visitors to experience the so-called San Francisco Sound - rock music performed live by San Francisco bands during the mid-1960s and early 1970s.

Some of the legendary bands of that era were The Grateful Dead, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jefferson Airplane and The Byrds.

The show is the largest exhibition in a citywide celebration of the Summer of Love. The San Francisco Travel Association has launched a marketing campaign to attract international tourists.

For this year, the organization forecasts 2.9 million international tourists to the city. The largest overseas market and the fastest-growing one will continue to be China this year with 526,090 visitors projected, a 9.58 percent increase over 2016.

The de Young Museum also has seen a great increase in interest from China, with visits made easy by direct flights to San Francisco from several cities in China, said Hollein.

"And we see welcoming Chinese visitors as a top priority for our museums in 2017," he added.

In the last six months alone, the museums have seen more than a 60 percent increase in online visits from China. China is now one of the countries showing the most interest in the de Young and the Legion of Honor.

"Comparing ticket sales from this time last year vs now, we're seeing a 20 percent increase in ticket sales from Greater China," he said.

The young Chinese are increasingly open to exploring art and culture during their overseas trips, said Lexie Wei, a Los Angeles-based tourism consultant. "I've seen increasing enthusiasm from young Chinese tourists in the US art and music festivals in the past year. Many tour operators are keen on designing packages featuring such events," she said.

The de Young museum and Legion of Honor are both architectural landmarks in the city and located in Golden Gate Park and Lincoln Park, both popular destinations among Chinese tourists.

"With shows such as the Summer of Love Experience and at the Legion of Honor: Degas, Impressionism and the Paris Millinery Trade on view this summer, we expect that many Chinese visitors will make visiting our museums a priority of their itinerary," Hollein said.

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