In Depth

San Francisco hosts a new Summer of Love

The city celebrates one of the most iconic events in its history, with parties, concerts and exhibitions to mark its 50th anniversary

The counter-culture movement of the mid-1960s can easily be dismissed as a trite hippie cliche, but the mass impact and enduring influence of San Francisco's Summer of Love can never be underestimated.

Shot In Studio

Shot In Studio

©2016 Fine Arts Museums of San frncisco

The Summer of Love refers to the events of 1967 when around 100,000 young people gathered in the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood of San Francisco, driven by a desire to create a new social paradigm. Community-minded living and creative expression were at the heart of the movement, as was a rejection of materialistic values and a strong anti-war rhetoric. The movement attracted thousands of people from all over America and sparked similar action overseas.

The phenomenon was preceded earlier that year by the "Human Be-in", a similar gathering in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park in January 1967. The event was spearheaded by the revolutionary thinkers and activists Timothy Leary, Jerry Rubin, Dick Gregory and the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg. The San Francisco Oracle, an underground newspaper, dubbed the Human-Be-in "a gathering of the tribe" and promoted it with the following call to action:

"A new concept of celebrations beneath the human underground must emerge, become conscious, and be shared, so a revolution can be formed with a renaissance of compassion, awareness, and love, and the revelation of unity for all mankind."

L16.56.9

Copyright: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

This year marks the 50th anniversary of The Summer of Love, and San Franciscans are commemorating a cultural phenomenon, that as well as producing era-defining fashion, art and music would also spawn the Women's, Gay, Anti-War and Civil Rights movements.

On 4 June, a free concert will be held in the Polo Fields of Golden Gate Park and this will be in the spirit of the original 1967 gathering. Over the course of one day, 21 bands and 32 speakers including Native Americans and Tibetan monks will converge, with the festival's overall emphasis being on inclusion and diversity. 

The de Young fine art museum in Golden Gate Park will host a major retrospective throughout the summer to coincide with the 50th anniversary celebrations.

Shot In Studio

Shot In Studio

©2016 Fine Arts Museums of San frncisco

The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll will feature more than 300 cultural artefacts from the mid-1960s. These will include iconic rock posters, photographs, clothing and films.

In addition to providing background and context to the Summer of Love, the exhibition will include an overview of the 1966 Trips Festival, an experimental, LSD-fuelled sound and vision extravaganza organised by American writers Stewart Brand and Ken Kesey. The three-day event, which featured avant-garde light shows, performance art and music by the newly christened Grateful Dead, is cited as the blueprint of the creative explosion of the following year.

The de Young exhibition also includes iconic psychedelic posters by seminal artists Wes Wilson, Victor Moscoso and Rick Griffin. By contrast, portraits of members of Black Panther (a controversial activist group) captured by photojournalist Stephen Shames will also be on display. The group flourished in 1967.

Shot In Studio

Shot In Studio

©2016 Fine Arts Museums of San frncisco

The Summer of Love encapsulated a number of political, social and cultural ideals during a particularly tumultuous period in modern American history. The ethos of compassion, love and humanity that was embraced at the time, however, is just as relevant today as it was half a century ago.

The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll runs from 8 April to 20 August; deyoung.famsf.org

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