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Best Art in Downtown Lobbies 

By Jonathan Curiel

The buildings in downtown San Francisco are as dense as any in the world, and they're easy to walk past without finding a compelling reason to go inside. Here's a reason: art in the lobby. The best lobbies in downtown San Francisco feature artwork that rivals anything in the de Young or SFMOMA. Here are five lobbies worth visiting:

101 Second Street


It's a gigantic lobby with tables and chairs and glass walls that let light flood in from Second and Mission streets. On one interior wall is Charles Arnoldi's two-story painting that's crammed with brilliant colors and teardrop shapes bending and floating every which way. At the lobby's opposite end is a sculpture by Larry Bell, called Sumer #24, that also bends and leans in different directions. The works nicely complement each other, and make being in the lobby a treat no matter where you stand or put your feet.

The Landmark at One Market
One sculpture looks like a stylish mini-tornado. Another has a figure resembling that of the Michelin Man. But the way that sculptor Mark Lere plays with patterns and structure gives these two pieces an undeniable beauty and an almost Zen-like feel. Lere's works are in the lobby of the building called The Landmark at One Market, between Steuart and Spear streets, and are right next to the glass front doors and walls, making them highly visible even from the street.

Embarcadero 2
Old maps are always a treasure to look at. Troy Corliss and Elin Christopherson took that concept and went wild, creating seven towering glass panels that pay homage to San Francisco's maritime scene from centuries ago. The view is from above San Francisco. Together, the panels — in the lobby of Embarcadero 2, close to Front Street, near Clay and Sacramento streets — are a window into a time when the city was just starting to be world-class.

Palace Hotel
Maxfield's Pied Piper Bar, in the Palace Hotel at 2 Montgomery, is inches from the building's lobby, from where you can see its most famous occupant: Maxfield Parrish's painting, The Pied Piper of Hamelin. Hanging behind the bar, it's one of Parrish's masterworks, with the distinctive light and panoramic view that Parrish is so known for.

Rincon Annex
It's no longer a post office, but Rincon Annex — on Mission, close to Spear Street, and now part of Rincon Center — retains the beautiful murals that Anton Refregier put on its walls in the 1940s. The murals narrate the tumultuous history of San Francisco, showing everything from the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake to violence against new Chinese immigrants in the city's early years. Each of Refregier's 27 murals is an epic scene that inspires chills and wonder.

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