Living in the mid-Market section of San Francisco (roughly from Market and 5th to Market and Gough), I am accustomed to a parade of junkies, deadbeats, vagrants and mentally ill people on my walks around the hood. Consequently, the neighborhood has suffered a lack of retail options. San Francisco has taken steps to encourage more businesses to set roots in the neighborhood, and over the last 6 months I’ve begun noticing more and more businesses coming to town.
One of the newer establishments is the International Art Museum of America, in a regal looking building on Market between 6th and 7th. Their window display is a life-size diorama with a nature scene that includes a treehouse, a stream, a gazebo and lots of fake grass. It’s weird, but super intriguing. I had walked by this place a million times, assuming it was some sort of natural history museum, but it closes early, so the mystery remained.
Today, all that changed. On a lazy afternoon I saw that the museum was open, and opportunity struck.
Red Flag #1
Once inside you realize there is nothing terribly official about the museum. “Admissions” is a desk plunked down in the center of the room. They seemed surprised to see me. The guest services agent, who I later discovered also runs the gift shop AND is the curator, told me the exhibit focused on Asian art. That seemed discongruent with the nature scene diorama, which I now realized extends far into the entrance (and is completely off limits). But whatevs, I figured they were new and still finding their way.
I paid my $10 and waited patiently as the guest services agent called for more visitor stickers. I understand that’s a common practice when visiting museums, but I didn’t realize how strange that actually turned out to be since I WAS THE ONLY PERSON IN THE MUSEUM and never saw a security guard (or another living soul).
Red Flag #2
The tour began and I walked into the first room which had a bust of this man: H. H. Dorje Chang Buddha III, who, according to the placard is the most amazing and magnificent being to grace the Earth and his artwork which adorns the museum is so magnificent it could never possibly be recreated. Don’t even think about trying to! You may think I am exaggerating about what was written about this man, but I assure you, if anything I am downplaying the praise lavished upon him.
Of course, it all made sense when the placard informed me that H. H. Dorje Chang Buddha III is the only true incarnation of Buddha, so of course he’s got to be the best at everything. Bastard.
Red Flag #3
Come to learn 90% of the art in the “international museum” is by H. H. Dorje Chang Buddha III. And let me tell you, this man is prolific! Room after room of a dizzying array of art in every medium imaginable. For example:
- You know what you get if you take spray-on foam and shellac it? Art by H. H. Dorje Chang Buddha III.
- How about if you take a giant wine bottle, cover it in clay and chemicals so it looks like spent wax dripping down a bottle? More art by H. H. Dorje Chang Buddha III.
His artwork spanned from Impressionist backgrounds, to Chinese calligraphy, a multitude of faux rock sculptures and the PIECE DE RESISTANCE, rock frames WITH HOLOGRAMS INSIDE THEM.
One of these holograms depicts a man on a horse (or is that a hippo?) frolicking around a swamp.
Oh and did I mention all of the art was pixelated? This shit isn’t even the original?!
All the art is adorned with these hilariously bombastic placards praising his work. The price of admission is worth that alone! Case in point, I covertly snapped this photo:
From the first paragraph:
This Yun Sculpture Art is called “Forever Brilliant”. This unmatched form of art was created for the first time in this human world by H. H. Dorje Chang Buddha III. In doing so, H. H. Dorje Chang Buddha III pioneered for the first time in human history a form of art whose works cannot be duplicated by any person or through any scientific method. Such unprecedented art is truly mysterious… These works of art are like treasures from heaven.
My mind was BLOWN.
On my way out I decided to stop by the gift shop. I hope you’re sitting down for this:
Red Flag #4
I enter into a gift shop unlike any other. IT’S A CERAMIC FLOORTILE SHOWROOM. Guys, I cannot make this stuff up. I wish I had a picture of my face taken at that very moment, because never have I been so bewildered.
I walk through the tile showroom into what resembles a more traditional gift shop and find the salesperson:
Me: What’s with the floor tiles?
Him: They’re for sale.
Me: It’s rather untraditional to buy floor tiles at a museum, don’t you think?
Him: (Points to gift shop floor) This way you can take home our floor tiles with you.
Me: (Incredulously) I can take home the floor??
Him: Well not the actual floor.
I cannot believe I walked through the entire museum and neglected to realize I had the once in a lifetime opportunity to own the same ceramic tiles that adorned the floor of H. H. Dorje Chang Buddha III’s art.
With my spidey sense tingling, I went online to investigate. According to SFist:
The project [International Art Museum of America] first caught Curbed’s attention about two years ago, and we went on to draw what we believed was an ownership connection to a Chinese Buddhist temple in the Mission called Hua Zang Si and their spiritual leader H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III.
No one actually tried to recruit me to the cult of H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III, and for that, I am mildly insulted. After all, I was the only person in this goddamn place!
I am adding the International Art Museum of America to my list of “must-see” attractions in San Francisco. If you are in the hood, this is the most entertaining way to spend an afternoon!