Ready or not, Valentine’s Day is coming. Maybe you’re over it. That’s ok. Maybe you’re just tired of the Valentine’s same old. You know, roses, chocolates, dinner somewhere “romantic” where everyone else is trying to be “romantic” too. So we’d like to invite you to be our Valentine. Oh, I know what you’re thinking: “Museums aren’t romantic. Museums are for Culture and Art and Learning.” Well, allow us to challenge your preconceptions with this self-guided tour for lovers.
1. When you come to the museum, you probably head straight for the escalator, right? A more romantic entrance is straight up the staircase. Many a bride and groom have made their way up these same stairs. Pause at the top and imagine you’re in Gone With the Wind.
2. Walk into Samsung Hall and take a turn about the dance floor before heading out to the bridge on your right. Cross over to the Betty Bogart Contemplative Alcove. You can ponder love while in the presence of Izumi Masatoshi’s Basin, or just use the quiet corner to steal a kiss.
3. Facing the alcove, take a left and head out to the escalator. Go up to your right, and then enter the South Asian galleries. In the first gallery to your left as you round the corner is a linga, or phallic symbol. Put art history aside for a moment and allow yourselves a Valentine’s titter.
4. Wander on through the South Asia galleries until you reach a room with some paintings to your left. Imagine yourselves as a prince and his consort enjoying the fireworks, real or metaphorical.
5. Head back to the glass elevator and descend to the first floor. If you need a break, Cafe Asia is the perfect place for a shared lassi or a decadent dessert for two.
6. You’re lovers, so you don’t have to follow the rules. Head into gallery 3 (Osher Gallery) of the Maharaja exhibit. The exhibit flow has you turn left; defy the rules, turn right and you’re in the jazz age. Take in the Man Ray images of Yeshwant Rao Holkar II and Sanyogita Devi of Indore and imagine you’re an equally dashing young couple. Wander through the rest of the gallery if you like.
6. Cross over to gallery 2 (Hambrecht Gallery), opposite. Directly across from you are some paintings of intimate scenes, perfect for lovers.
7. Of course, we’re ending with a wedding. To your left are scenes of life at court, including a royal wedding, and one of the highlights of the exhibition—a stunning bridal outfit. Once you’re done contemplating your future together, walk through the rest of the gallery and out into the court.
If you really want to break the Valentine mold, we recommend giving an Asian Art Museum membership to your beloved as a gift and then taking this tour during our evening Matcha “sensuality” event on February 16. Entry is $10, but for members it’s free and you can skip the line, leaving more time for Ayurvedic head massages and alluring teas.
Afterward, stroll arm-in-arm to nearby Hayes Valley for dinner at Bar Jules, a small cafe awash in warm colors and candlelight, dishing out excellent Californian food in a casual comfy atmosphere. Or if you’re feeling more adventurous hop in a cab and head to Russian Hill, just five minutes away, where cable cars and lights strewn through trees make for that extra ambiance oomph. Dine at Frascati, a hidden gem bistro known for its pitch perfect service and quality Mediterranean-inspired cuisine.
We’re open every Thursday night through October, but if you want to catch the risqué paintings in Maharaja you’ll have to be quick—it closes April 8.
Got any other special places in the museum? Share them in the comments.