Panama 66 and SDMA’s Exhibit “Gauguin to Warhol”

| November 05, 2014

The purveyors of Blind Lady Ale House and Tiger!Tiger! have come to Balboa Park. They claimed the café located in the San Diego Museum of Art’s May S. Marcy Sculpture Court and have called the outpost Panama 66. I hope they stay a while.



How’d they land on “Panama 66″? By drawing on the history of its location: “Panama” refers to both the Panama-California Exposition held in Balboa Park in 1915 and the fact that the café is located in Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama. The “66″ is an homage to the year–1966–the San Diego Museum of Art opened the sculpture court.

As loyal fans of BLAH and Tiger!Tiger! have come to expect, Panama 66 has taps upon taps of expertly curated beer. It also has a well-stocked food menu, one in which qualifiers like “house wood-fired,” “house-made,” and “house smoked” appear as often as buskers do on Balboa Park’s main promenade. Simply place your order at the register at the entrance, take your number, and grab a seat at the bar or any one of the myriad of shaded tables.



My husband and I finally visited the outdoor eatery for lunch a few weeks ago. I sunk my teeth into a hefty, hot Roast Beef sandwich made up of house wood-fired roast beef, broccoli rabe, and horseradish cream piled into a chewy house-made bun. My baby daddy chose the P66 Club, a cold sandwich consisting of house wood-fired turkey, thick cut bacon, tomato, butter lettuce, avocado, and harissa aioli in-between sliced country French bread.

When we originally placed our order, we wondered if we should have added something to share on the side, like a dish of fries or a Kale Salad. Then, these beasts came out and we were glad we didn’t give in to self doubt.

Sadly, neither of these sandwiches are on Panama 66’s current menu on account of the fact that the menu is subject to change. Often. But, a friend who currently works the grill station for P66 has talked up the new Roasted Butternut Squash sandwich as well as the Turkey & Brie sandwich. So, I’m not too sad about the lack of menu stability.



After lunch, we walked off the calories by exploring the “Gauguin to Warhol” exhibit showing at the San Diego Museum of Art (SDMA).

A collection of iconic 20th century works on loan from Buffalo’s renowned Albright-Knox Art Gallery, “Gauguin to Warhol” traces the path of Modern art from the late 19th century to the present. Pieces are grouped in movements, taking visitors through the School of Paris to Modernisn, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, and eventually Pop.


I was surprised at how drawn I was to Fernand Léger’s “Smoke” (below left) and “Village in the Forest” because I’ve never once paid attention to Cubism. The unseeing gaze of Modigliani’s “Servant Girl” (below right) made me feel sad, particularly because the subject’s eyes share the same color as the wall she stands in front of, implying to me that while she is there, her station brands her no more valuable than space in the room. Soutine’s “Carcass of Beef” made me think of the movie “Mona Lisa Smile.” I felt calmed by O’Keeffe’s “Green Patio Door,” which reminded of the desert on hot, quiet day. I laughed out loud at how well Balla captured the walking of a Dachshund in “Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash,” from the swinging chain leash to the dog’s and owner’s scampering gaits.

Then I rounded a corner and was beheld by Pollock’s “Convergence.” There’s a bench set right in front of the wall-sized work to encourage staring. I didn’t sit down immediately, choosing instead to admire it from afar, then inch my way closer and closer. “Boy, you could tell a mile away whose this is,” said one sassy museum visitor as she approached it.

When I eventually turned away from the massive art piece to look for my husband, I realized that there were actually a couple of other pieces on the walls perpendicular to it. How could I have missed them? Go see for yourself and be ready to hear various SDMA patrons wonder aloud where Pollock found the room to create it.

Sure, you eventually come upon a Warhol and a Lichtenstein. But, honestly, I’d prefer to spend a few more days just staring at the Pollock.


If you’d like to savor an evening at SDMA and Panama 66, then check out the upcoming Painting on Tap, a 21+ after museum-hours event set for 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 13. Attendees get an exclusive tour of “Gauguin to Warhol” and get to create their own work of art inspired by Henri Rousseau’s “Flowers in a Vase,” on view in the exhibition. Panama 66 will be open throughout the event for those eager to also nibble and sip the night away, but the catch is that you have to purchase food and drink separately. Tickets to Painting on Tap are $60 for nonmembers.

(Photo of Fernand Léger’s “Smoke” from Photo of Amedeo Modigliani’s “Servant Girl” from

Panama 66 // 4150 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101 //

San Diego Museum of Art // 1450 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101 // // “Gauguin to Warhol” shows through January 27, 2015

Christine’s picks from “Gauguin to Warhol” // Fernand Léger’s “Smoke” and “Village in the Forest,” Giacomo Balla’s “Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash,” Jackson Pollock’s “Convergence,” John Beech’s “Large Elmer Painting”

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2 Comments to Panama 66 and SDMA’s Exhibit “Gauguin to Warhol”

Lisa M
November 6, 2014

I’m taking Monday off so I can go to the Museum with my family due to this post. So thanks!!

November 6, 2014

Glad to hear it, Lisa!