John Wickett’s Museum of Exotica may be the least-known museum of San Francisco. This is not in the least because it lacks intrigue or fascinating objects, but because visits to the private collection are by invitation only- that is, depending on whether Mr. Wickett takes an interest in you when you call to make a reservation.
Visitors who succeed in seeing the collection will be justly rewarded. Pieces include: a tribal throne from New Guinea, a bishop’s mantle woven with solid gold thread, an antique marionette of Joan of Arc, a whale rib, a bird cage modeled after an Austrian prison, a Tibetan drum made out of human skulls.
None of the pieces have labels or descriptions, but information about all of them is stored in Mr. Wickett’s memory.
The space- in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood– used to be a laundromat but the three room now feature lofts, narrow passageways, alcoves and hidden corners, all crammed with objects.
John Wickett grew up on the San Francisco Peninsula and was a successful businessman (of 14 different businesses), owned a vast amount of land in California, and served on an eclectic assortment of organizations including Rotary Club, United Way, Cotillion committee, and State Board of Realtors. He tired of the formality of the high society lifestyle, and gave it up to travel the world and collect weird things.
Update: John Wickett passed away at age 87 and it appears his collection was auctioned off. The collection included one of the original Laughing Sal dolls from San Francisco’s Playland-at-the-Beach, which was purchased by the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for $50,000.