|By Susan Emerson Nutter
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Messing with tradition can cause a ruckus. Just ask Kyo-ya Hotels and Resorts, owners of The Palace Hotel, San Francisco, where a work by Maxfield Parrish, The Pied Piper, has graced the wall of the hotel’s main bar for more than a century.
An impressive work of art measuring 16 feet long and 6 feet wide, The Pied Piper is a fixture of the Palace Hotel; the same hotel that was destroyed in the 1906 Great Earthquake and Fire. The mural was painted in 1909 by Parrish – one of the most noted American painters of the 20th century – especially for the Palace Hotel, which reopened that year.
According to change.org, “The 16-foot-long painting is one of only two Maxfield Parrish barroom artworks in the country. Its counterpart, The Old King Cole, remains prominently displayed for all to enjoy at the St. Regis Hotel in New York.”
Considered a San Francisco cultural treasure and the main feature of the Pied Piper Bar and Grill, the painting is not only well known but well loved. Estimated to be worth from $3-$5 million, The Pied Piper is glorious, but also a major worry; a concern that The Palace Hotel decided to act upon.
On Friday, March 22, The Pied Piper was removed and shipped to New York and word on the street was the painting would be sold. Officials of the Palace Hotel released a statement to the San Francisco Chronicle confirming this stating, “It is no longer practical for the hotel to display an original work of this value and cultural significance.” The painting was slated to be the showpiece of Christie’s May 23 spring auction of important American paintings.
When word got out that The Pied Piper had left town, an uproar ensued. Soon a petition was circulating whose main goal was to stop this sale. San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee even put in a call to the Palace Hotel.
How can there be a Pied Piper Bar and Grill without its, flute-toting namesake?
Kyo-ya Hotels and Resorts did not brush aside the outcry, and before the week was out, the business issued this statement, “Given the local community’s affection for Maxfield Parrish’s The Pied Piper painting, Kyo-ya Hotels and Resorts, owners of The Palace Hotel, have reconsidered the sale of the beloved piece, which will remain on property. As responsible owners, Kyo-ya is fully committed to the proper conservation of this important piece and will proceed with the planned restoration.
“The original decision to sell the painting was a difficult one. Upon a recent review, it was determined that the painting needed specialized and continuous care to preserve the original artwork, which is of such high value and cultural significance. We are dedicated to finding a solution that keeps The Pied Piper in The Palace Hotel for all to enjoy, and have consulted with Mayor Lee to ensure that the interests of the residents of San Francisco were instrumental in this decision.”
“We all sat back and listened very carefully, and we are delighted to bring it back,” Christophe Thomas, the Palace Hotel’s general manager said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle.
Though the public’s wishes to bring the painting home won out, The Pied Piper remains in New York where it will be treated to a museum-quality restoration.
It has not been made clear when the painting will return. Where or how it will now be displayed is also undecided. “It has suffered in the past from smoke in the bar, and there’s evidence of liquid splashed on it,” Greg Dickhens, president of Kyo-ya Hotels & Resorts told in the San Francisco Chronicle.
He added, “Our biggest concern remains ensuring that the painting is adequately protected, and that may mean placing it elsewhere in the hotel.”
Make no mistake. The public wants The Pied Piper back where it belongs – decorating the wall behind the Pied Piper Bar and Grill as it always has. But for now, those who have tossed back a few at the Palace Hotel are glad the wily musician from Hamelin did not suffer the same fate as the children he famously lured from the city and disappear never to be seen again.
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