Where to experience art in San Francisco
Yes, I know, big surprise! Even if SFMOMA already is in every lousy SF guide book, it very well deserves its #1 spot on the list. Since it's recent re-opening in 2016, the museum of modern (and contemporary) art has escalated to the top of my favorite museums in the world. With its 7 floors of modern art this landmark is a must for anyone visiting the Bay Area. Art lovers will without a doubt fall in love with the collection, but anyone will find something to enjoy or be amused by in the colorful museum. Impeccable architecture, giant windows, stunning views, tons of classics, a blue bottle cafe and a sculpture garden are only some of its wonders.
The membership (only) costs $100/year and gives you unlimited access to the museum with a +1 and 8 tickets to every special exhibit. I (unfortunately) don't work for them, but I genuinely think it's one of the best investments I've made while living in San Francisco. I can't recommend it enough! For non residents, the museum does have a student, senior and children discount, so don't forget your IDs!
Minnesota street project
Less known than SFMOMA, and a bit further out of the way, the Minnesota Street Project is no less awesome. In a short street of the Dogpatch district, a warehouse was transformed into two floors of galleries and exhibition space dedicated to contemporary art and its community. Away from the traffic, crowds and distractions of downtown, the MSP is a sanctuary for art lovers of the Bay Area. Have you ever been to a small gallery and hoped for more? Or been to a museum and left exhausted after trying to see too much? This facility houses the best of both worlds! An accessible assembly of small galleries to devour current art and enough space in between to think and take it all in. Plus, the staff is super friendly! Don't hesitate to ask questions, they're always happy to talk about the artist, process or just life in general! I also love how this space incorporates artists that use technology and new media in favor of fine art, we are in a "tech nest" after all. Check out this video of my latest visit for some very incredibly intricate art.
As an added bonus, Philz coffee is right across the street for a coffee break and some sugary energy. Oh and did I mention it's totally free? The gallery, not the coffee :(
Pier 24 is one of my favorite hidden gem in San Francisco. The building, located along the Embarcadero, directly under the Bay Bridge, is the largest exhibition space dedicated to photography in the world (yup, that's right!). As if the stunning location, great permanent collection and cool warehouse-y architecture weren't reasons enough to pay them a visit, it's free and open to the public (but an appointment has to be made prior to your visit). This system allows for a calm, quiet and relaxed moment of contemplation, without having to deal with hoards of people getting in your way. An amazing haven for art lovers and photography enthusiasts.
Though, in my humble opinion, the De Young doesn't have the most attractive permanent collection, it does know how to curate some pretty incredible temporary exhibitions. In the heart of Golden Gate park, the museum has paid homage to modern artists like Keith Haring or contemporary designers like Jean Paul Gaultier in some of some of their most popular exhibitions. One of their latest shows, The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll, showcased the tremendous creative outburst that came out of the legendary San Francisco summer of 1967. With a vast display of mediums and styles, the De Young's exhibits never fail to get me inspired.
As an added bonus, a ticket to the De Young also gets you into the Legion of Honor, if you still have strength to head over to the Presidio after. Don't forget to show your bus ticket or Muni card. The museum will discount your fare from the total, if you chose public transportation. Brownie points for that!
One last thing, there's a really cool teal bathroom with pretty flowers and mirrors. I like me a great color palette with reflections. Try to find it!
On the street!
Yes, San Francisco has some incredible museum and funky galleries, but not all good art is framed or sitting in the white cube. You don't need to get a ticket to enjoy the fabulous public art the city has to offer. From creative initiatives to neighborhood projects, San Francisco is overflowing with amazing murals, cool graffitis and a few beautiful tiled outdoor stairs, like the ones at Moraga street or Lincoln park. The Clarion alley project, in the heart of the Mission District (and a block away from Elbo room, one of my favorite bars), is probably one of the most popular street community-based and artists-run initiatives. While some of the murals have been preserved for years, others get renovated pretty often. Only a few blocks away, find the Women's building decorated by a giant mural dedicated to the brave contributions of women through time and around the world, the collective efforts of several Bay Area muralists. Did you also know there is a Mondrian house on the Great Highway between Rivera and Quintara Streets? I encourage you to find time to wander around and find more of these artsy treasures!