August 16, 2018

San Francisco: The David Ireland House; things to do


San Francisco

The David Ireland House  500 Capp St./20th St., 1 blk. E of Mission St., Mission District, (415) 986-1571.  Guided tour:  W-F at 11am, 2pm, & 4pm, also on last Thur at 7pm (features live art activation; $20, seniors+students $15; reservations advised.  Self-tour:  Sat 12-5pm; $12.50/$10.  Free admission to The Garage on Sat.

exterior of The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California
exterior of The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California


American conceptual artist David Ireland lived in this two-story, grey 1886 Italianate-style Victorian from 1975 to 2005.  (The original gas lamps from 1886 still work.)  As he worked at maintaining the house, he became interested in its history and began treating the structure as an art project.  He removed layers of old wallpaper and paint, left junctions visible, then polyurethaned much of it to a multi-layered, shiny finish that is seen on the walls and floors throughout.

living room at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California
living room at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California


hallway at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California
hallway at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California


naked light bulb at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California
naked light bulb at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California


Untitled (Accordion) by Los Jaichackers at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California
Untitled (Accordion) by Los Jaichackers at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California


He bottled some of the resultant dirt, wallpaper remnants, and wire into small collections.  Ireland is famous for saying (regarding marketable art), “You can’t make art by making art.”  In exploring the complex questions of the role of the artist and the meaning of art, he centered in on his home.  He began putting on small exhibitions here.  He embedded art, turned everyday things into art, and he also created more traditional pieces of art.

ceramic geisha in cement at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California
ceramic geisha in cement at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California


bowl of potatoes or turds at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California
bowl of potatoes or turds at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California


Ireland died in 2009, and his house opened as a private museum in 2016.  His art pieces number in the thousands and are rotated in and out of the house for viewing.  A favorite part of this tour for me was sitting down in the unchanged dining room--it is left as it was--at the narrow dining table Ireland made from recycled wide floor boards and imagining what it might have been like to enjoy a dinner party here.  The dining room is decorated with artifacts left from the 1960s, when Ireland owned the Hunter Africa shop in the Marina.

dining room at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California
dining room at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California


still life with photo of David Ireland in dining room at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California
still life with photo of David Ireland in dining room at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California


The entrance for this unusual museum is through an obscure door in the side of the house on 20th Street.  There is no signage, but if you look down you’ll see a tiny plaque in the sidewalk there that quotes Ireland:  “Art lets us make observations of things that were always there.”  Tours of this non-profit private museum begin in what was formerly Ireland’s studio, where splashes of paint remain on the concrete floor.  The studio is also where a former owner of the home made accordions.  Tours are led by artists and last 90 minutes.  Special programs are sometimes scheduled.  For more background on David Ireland, view this interview with him that appeared on KQED.

A new show opens June 22.  “I hope all is well…” features the work of artist Tony Matelli and runs through October 13, 2018.

exterior of garage gallery at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California
exterior of garage gallery at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California


Just across the street in sweet Alioto Mini Park you’ll find  blooming flowers and a fenced off vegetable garden.  This small corner park attracts passers-by to pause for a few minutes of respite.

Alioto Mini Park as seen from The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California
Alioto Mini Park as seen from The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California


The David Ireland House as seen from Alioto Mini Park in San Francisco, California
The David Ireland House as seen from Alioto Mini Park in San Francisco, California


When I visited on a weekday afternoon, most of the benches were in use.  My husband commented that what he needed to have the perfect experience here was a sombrero to protect him from the sunshine while he took a siesta.  However, the park also manages to be city gritty with sounds of the area’s drills and hammers busy in construction.  Facilities include a small playground and grassy area.

entrance gate to Alioto Mini Park in San Francisco, California
entrance gate to Alioto Mini Park in San Francisco, California


playground at Alioto Mini Park in San Francisco, California
playground at Alioto Mini Park in San Francisco, California


Continue east down 20th Street to visit these additional art venues:

Kadist  3295 20th St./Folsom St., 3 blks. E, (415) 738-8668.  This gallery with a branch in Paris exhibits works by international contemporary artists and hosts residencies.

Southern Exposure  3030 20th St,, 6 blks. E, (415) 863-2141.  This not-for-profit arts organization and alternative art space was founded in 1974.

The nearby San Jalisco restaurant makes a good lunch stop.



More places to visit in the Mission District.

More things to do in San Francisco

Way more things to do in San Francisco.

More ideas for exploring Northern California.

images ©2018 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

6 comments:

  1. The David Ireland House is exactly the king of place I love to visit, but can you believe it -- it's another one of those places completely under my radar when I lived in the SF Bay Area. I'll be back for a visit! That accordion looks like it's got a few stories to tell.

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  2. We never heard much about David Ireland's house in San Francisco, before this article. Thanks for sharing the pictorial walk through, which really piques interest to visit it in person.

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  3. Will be in the San Francisco area in the first week of September. This post is timely since it adds to what we can do while my daughter and family are out working or going to school! Thanks.

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  4. I really loved this visit and want to see this place in more detail, the colors and patina of the walls are really striking!

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  5. The David Ireland House certainly looks like it's filled with lots of quirky stuff. San Francisco is filled with so many places that are quirky to the tilt. Thx for sharing.

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  6. I live these kind s of places which haven’t been re-created, or reinterpreted. Just the artist’s simple belongings still intact so you can sit quietly and imagine the scene for yourself. “You can’t make art by making art”. :)

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