The newly restored Coit Tower murals

The newly restored Coit Tower murals (©Gwen Park)

San Francisco for Art Lovers

By Zachary Clark on 04/13/17
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The reopening of the SFMOMA in 2016—the largest modern art museum in the country—cemented San Francisco’s reputation as an arts destination. That reputation extends back to the Panama Pacific Exposition of 1915, when millions of people from around the world came to appreciate the thousands of works of art on display. Today, the city is home to numerous world-class museums and fine-art galleries showcasing works from just about every period and style you can think of.

But you don’t have to go to a museum to experience the arts in San Francisco; a myriad of public art installations are scattered throughout the city’s many neighborhoods. Three Diego Rivera frescos are permanently installed around town, and several locations, including Coit Tower, are home to murals commissioned by the Works Progress Administration (a New Deal agency employing millions of unskilled workers to carry out public works projects) in the 1930s. Read on for a look at the best of San Francisco’s art scene.

de Young Museum

(©Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco)

Attractions

de Young Museum

Located in Golden Gate Park, this is one of San Francisco’s premier museums. It showcases collections from the Americas, Pacific Islands and Africa. Be sure to visit the observation tower for impressive views.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

(©Henrik Kam)

Attractions

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

SFMOMA became the largest modern art museum in the country after a $305 million renovation tripled its gallery space. The museum's permanent collection entails more than 33,000 works, from sculpture to media arts.

Precita Eyes Mural Arts & Visitors Center

("Apart from and a Part of the World" by Jet Martinez in Clarion Alley)

Attractions

Precita Eyes Mural Arts & Visitors Center

Head here for tours of the Mission District murals. The center is a multipurpose, community-based arts organization that has played an integral role in the city's cultural heritage and arts education.

16th Avenue Tiled Steps

(©John Weiss/Flickr, Creative Commons)

Attractions

16th Avenue Tiled Steps

Artists Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher created the mosaic design for “The 16th Avenue Tiled Steps Project,” which was executed with the help of over 300 neighbors. The 163 colorful steps flow from sea to sky and are perfectly illuminated at sunset.

Legion of HonorLegion of Honor

(©FAMSF)

Attractions

Legion of Honor

A three-quarter-scale adaptation of the 18th-century Palais de la Légion d'Honneur in Paris, the museum was built to commemorate California soldiers who died in World War I. The collection includes works by European masters and major holdings of Rodin sculptures.

Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill

(©Scott Chernis/SF Travel)

Attractions

Coit Tower

Local artists commissioned by the WPA painted the murals inside this San Francisco landmark in 1934.

Beach Chalet/Park Chalet Brewery & Restaurant

(Courtesy Beach Chalet)

Restaurants

Beach Chalet/Park Chalet Brewery & Restaurant

This popular oceanfront restaurant and brewery is also home to Great Depression-era murals from one of the city's WPA projects.

First Thursday Art Walk

(Courtesy Catharine Clark Gallery)

Attractions

First Thursday Art Walk

Experience Union Square galleries, including Caldwell Snyder, Mark Wolfe Contemporary Art and Hashimoto Contemporary on this popular art walk offered on the first Thursday of every month.

Minnesota Street Project

(Courtesy Minnesota Street Project)

Attractions

Minnesota Street Project

The three warehouse gallery spaces that comprise the Minnesota Street Project’s Dogpatch studios and workspace are open to collectors and the curious public alike. Check specific galleries for hours, as each maintains its own.

Asian Art Museum

(©San Francisco Travel Association/Scott Chernis)

Attractions

Asian Art Museum

One of the largest museums devoted to Asian art in the Western Hemisphere, the Asian Art Museum is home to more than 18,000 artworks, from paintings and sculptures to textiles, furniture and armor.

Map of San Francisco for Art Lovers

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