Neon Art Installation Proposed For Exterior Of Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

A proposed public art project would grace the western facades of the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium with a large installation of neon lights.

Designed by artist Joseph Kosuth, who specializes in text-based works, the installation would spell out the etymology of the words "Civic" and "Auditorium" in large-scale neon lights on the building's Polk Street and western-facing Hayes Street facades.

A rendering of the proposed art, shown in daylight and at night. | Image: SFAC

The art installation is being funded through the city's Public Art Trust, which is leveraging a contribution made by The Emerald Fund, the developers of housing complexes The Civic (101 Polk St.) and 100 and 150 Van Ness, all of which are located near the auditorium. 

“[Kosuth] was selected through a competitive process in June 2015,” said Kate Patterson-Murphy, spokesperson for the San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC). “The Arts Commission contracted with him, and he was invited to develop a unique proposal for the building.”

Proposed location for the project. | Image: SFAC

In his artist's statement, Kosuth said his proposed work is intended to address the history and cultural importance of both the building and of Civic Center as a whole. 

“The word ‘Civic’ is intricately connected to the long history of civil rights activism that has taken place (and continues to take place) in the plaza—from gay rights to Black Lives Matter,” he writes.

“The word 'Auditorium,' on the other hand, is more specific to the building itself, referring to the collective audience assembled by Bill Graham, who found not only promoted concerts, but also community.”


The proposal is currently on display at the Main Library, and the SFAC is accepting public comments on it through April 10th. It will be considered at the SFAC Visual Arts Committee meeting on April 19th; if approved, it will take about a year to be installed.

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Neon art installation proposed for exterior of bill graham civic auditorium