Holocaust Memorial by George Segal at the California Legion of Honor in San Francisco.
Holocaust Memorial by George Segal at the California Legion of Honor in San Francisco.

Reinstallation ceremony set for restored S.F. Holocaust memorial sculpture

A public viewing of the famed Holocaust sculpture by George Segal at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor will take place on Feb. 22 after a $65,000 four-month restoration.

The free event will feature a talk by art scholar Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, followed by a viewing of the restored sculpture with remarks by conservator Rowan Geiger of Preservation Arts in Oakland. San Francisco arts patron Roselyn Cissie Swig, who was on the original committee that commissioned the Holocaust memorial, will introduce the speaker.

Geiger was commissioned by ArtCare, the Friends of the San Francisco Arts Commission, to restore the sculpture under the supervision of the George and Helen Segal Foundation. The striking work, titled “The Holocaust,” shows several human figures — understood to be internees at a concentration camp — behind barbed wire. All but one are lying on the ground.

The bronze sculpture, covered in a signature chalky white patina, was installed in 1984 near a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It had become weathered by time and the salt air.

Kirshenblatt-Gimblett previously commented that “Holocaust survivors on the jury for a memorial in San Francisco wanted a powerful statement. Segal won the competition by delivering just that.” In her talk, she will discuss how the Segal work spoke to its time and how it now speaks to contemporary issues of Holocaust denial and resurgent anti-Semitism around the world.

Kirshenblatt-Gimblett is chief curator of the core exhibition at Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw and professor emerita at New York University, as well as the author of numerous scholarly books on Jewish culture. She serves on advisory boards for Jewish museums in Vienna, Berlin and Moscow.

Segal, a major American painter and sculptor associated with the pop art movement, and the son of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, died in 2000.

The Feb. 22 event begins at 1 p.m. with Kirshenblatt-Gimblett’s talk at the Legion of Honor, 100 34th Ave., S.F., followed by the viewing at 2:15 p.m. Find information at legionofhonor.famsf.org.

Laura Pall
Laura Paull

Laura Paull is J.'s former culture editor.