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Can San Francisco CHERYL?

Adam L. Brinklow | February 20, 2013 | Story Galleries and Performance

San Francisco has been challenged. The place? The Asian Art Museum. The time? Thursday, Feb. 21, 7:00 PM. The challenge? Do we have what it takes to party with CHERYL?

The San Francisco Asian Art Museum marks the opening of their new exhibit, China’s Terracotta Warriors: The First Emperor's Legacy, with a gala premiere this week. But it won't be a high-brow museum party for academics in tweeds and socialites in formalwear—this party is real. The museum calls it a "dance rumble" complete with "turf war antics," featuring DJ Pink Lightning and themed on the 70s cult classic film The Warriors. Who's responsible for this? CHERYL.

"They're a one-of-a-kind artist collective with a track record of working with museums," says Marc Mayer, Educator for Public Programs at SFAAM and the point man for bringing New York-based party-makers CHERYL back to San Francisco (CHERYL pulled off their first S.F. caper with Public Works last year). Mayer (a recent East Coast transplant) wanted to see what CHERYL's take on China's Terracotta Warriors would be. Thursday’s party will be the product of eight months of collaboration between the museum and the East Coast party magnates.

Why The Warriors? "We're from New York and we're bringing our local flair to San Francisco with something very New York-centric," says CHERYL videographer and DJ Nick Schiarizzi. "And it's a funny take on this exhibition."

What exactly is CHERYL? That's a tricky question. "CHERYL is CHERYL" their promo material explains. A four-person artist collective operating out of an abandoned bank vault on Wall Street (a gift from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council), CHERYL blends performance art and experimental video editing with kinetic dance-club environments. Their venue of choice? Museums.

New York's PS1 Contemporary Art Center approached CHERYL for an event in 2008 and gradually it became their thing. “If a museum needs a party, it asks artists who throw parties," says Stina Puotinen, co-founder of CHERYL, who has thrown CHERYL for New York's MOMA, Jewish Museum, and Brooklyn Museum; The Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art; and Washington D.C.'s National Geographic Museum.

They work in traditional dance and concert venues too, but a growing number of museums are letting CHERYL do CHERYL in their institutions. "When you think of a museum you think of something very static. You think of a space that is very serious," says Schiarizzi. How do you counteract that? You CHERYL.

But is CHERYL really the best way to promote Terracotta Warriors at The Asian Art Museum? "We believe serious learning and a sense of fun, even edginess, can coexist," says Mayer. The museum, he says, is interested in making new connections, within the material and within the community. After all, even the terracotta warriors themselves can’t stay in just one place forever.

Curious? Then come out and play: The Asian Art Museum (200 Larkin St) hosts CHERYL, Thursday Feb. 21, from 7:00 - 11:00 PM. $15 in advance or $18 at the door. Go to to find out more.

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