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For old-timer SF natives, Beniamino Bufano’s work can be seen all over the city. For those with an untrained Bufano eye, his presence is less obvious. It can go totally unnoticed.
This was the case until last month at Stanford Court. The Italian-born artist’s 3-ton, 10-foot tall penguin statue went unseen by most guests behind a retaining wall on the hotel grounds until it was pulled out with a crane. Its restoration is now complete, and we look forward to showcasing the historic work front and center in our courtyard in the coming weeks.
But before that happens, here is some backstory on the beloved local artist.
Beniamino Bufano, nicknamed “Bene,” first came to San Francisco to work at the world’s fair in 1915 (note to history buffs: this specific fair was in celebration of the completion of the Panama Canal). He fell in love with SF and returned years later, making art pieces for the city. He accepted mere day wages for his work and sought to create public works that were “big enough to belong to everybody, too big for anyone to put in his pocket and call his own.”
Bufano worked with mostly stone and mosaics. He created many sculptures of animals, from butterflies to bears, cats, seals and butterflies. The San Francisco Chronicle counted 58 of Bufano’s works in San Francisco, with 16 city-owned, and many others that are kept in hospitals, colleges and churches. Sixteen busts reside in the MOMA. A small collection is also honored in Valencia Gardens, an affordable housing site in The Mission. Other works of his can be seen in the Aquatic Park district.
He is also characterized by his “peace totems,” towering sculptures of openness and peace. A notable statue is the 8-story tall, 6,000-lb “Peace” statue that overlooks Timber Cove, California, on the Sonoma Coast.
If you’re interested in seeing more works of Bufano’s, just two blocks away from Stanford Court at St. Mary’s Square stands his statue of Sun Yat-sen. Also, feel free to check out this interactive map of Bufano’s works put together by the SF Chronicle.
Check back for updates on the penguins’ new roost when we give it a proper spot in our courtyard in the coming days!
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