San Francisco Museums and Galleries
Gallery Wendi Norris
8 Octavia St., Hayes Valley
Wendi Norris runs one of the most cutting-edge, meticulously curated galleries in San Francisco. Norris spent ten years in tech before pivoting to the art world. Her gallery represents a wide span of contemporary and modern creatives, focusing on Latinx surrealists like Leonora Carrington. To follow the gallery’s roster of artists is a commitment, given Norris’s penchant for site-specific exhibits across cities other than San Francisco.
Minnesota Street Project
1275 Minnesota St., Dogpatch
This corner of Dogpatch is dedicated to providing accessible and affordable (on a long- and short-term basis) space for artists to thrive. Founded by collectors Deborah and Andy Rappaport, the project spans three cavernous warehouses and provides living space for San Francisco’s contemporary artists to call home. Two of these warehouses are open free to the public. Here. you’ll find ten galleries, each with its own hours. Don’t miss the current Raymond Saunders retrospective (until June 25th).
Legion of Honor Museum
100 34th Ave., Lincoln Park
The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco has two cultural institutions under its belt: The De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor museum in Lincoln Park. This summer (2021), the Legion of Honor is opening its summer season with two stellar exhibits. Travel without traveling via The Last Supper from Pompeii: From the Table to the Grave, a journey to the ancient Roman city and see what well-laid tables, daily activities, and art were like before the blast. While you’re here, dip into the permanent collection and find the French masters, Renaissance pioneers, and plenty of early twentieth-century photography to keep you occupied. Images courtesy of Gary Sexton.
355 24th St., Oakland
A non-profit in Oakland, Creative Growth lives up to its name. The gallery represents and exhibits artists with developmental, physical, and intellectual disabilities while also functioning as a studio for over 140 creatives. The space is, in a word, ginormous. Twelve thousand square feet house multi-media studios, a kiln for ceramicists, the gallery, a kitchen, and a community hub. All the art produced on-site is for sale both online and through other galleries throughout the Bay Area. Portrait by Latefa Noorzai and abstract piece by Dan Miller.
Asian Art Museum
200 Larkin St.; Civic Center
One of the largest collections of Asian art outside of Asia, this is the kind of museum you could spend an entire day exploring and feel as if you’d only scratched the surface.
49 Geary St., Union Square
Jeffrey Fraenkel opened his eponymous gallery when he was just 24, and over the course of the last 35 years has built his brand as one of the best photography galleries in the country. With a formidable list of artists (he's shown everyone from Sol LeWitt to Diane Arbus, and he handles the estate of Garry Wineograd) and a slew of loyal collectors, he's had an enormous influence on many significant photography collections in the city. Currently on show: Carrie Mae Weems curates the Diane Arbus photographs that speak to her the most. Don't miss the Fraenkel Gallery's satellite pop-up space in Presidio Heights. The idea behind it is somewhat grab-and-go: each piece—from the likes of Diane Arbus, Adam Fuss, and Adam Levitt—is already framed for instant purchase.
49 Geary St., Union Square
Cheryl Haines has had a long and successful career as a gallerist, but she's best known in her home city as a fierce advocate for public art—she's the visionary that brought Andy Goldsworthy's signature Spire in the Presidio. Most recently, she's gained critical acclaim for bringing a major site-specific work by Ai Wei Wei to Alcatraz (and dying her hair blue in the process). With artists like James Turrell on her roster, a visit to her tiny Union Square gallery, which is a total hidden gem compared with the large public artworks she's better known for, is never a disappointment.
Crown Point Press
20 Hawthorne St., Financial District
Crown Point Press is one of those hybrid spaces that functions as a printmaker, publisher, bookstore, and gallery all in one. They invite artists from all over the world to work in their state-of-the-art printmaking studios, producing limited-editions that they sell and display in their gallery—the list of artists they've worked with is pretty jaw-dropping, with everyone from Chuck Close to Chris Ofili to Alex Katz. Photo: Henrik Kam
Yerba Buena Center For the Arts
701 Mission St., Financial District
Yerba Buena doesn't have a permanent collection, meaning that their resources are significantly freed up to put towards a robust community program with lots of performance art, films, and events that complement and work off of their exhibition program. Their visual art program is similarly robust, taking ambitious exhibitions from other institutions—they're currently hosting Radical Presence, a survey of visual art by African American artists that's the first of its kind.
De Young Museum
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr., Golden Gate Park
Much like the Met in New York or LACMA in Los Angeles, the de Young Museum is San Francisco's encyclopedic public cultural offering—with a significant collection of Asian Art and celebrated holdings in sculpture, painting, and works on paper. After suffering significant damage during the Loma Prieta earthquake, the museum closed for five years starting in 2000 for a complete rebuild. The new Herzog & de Meuron-designed building and corresponding landscaping have made it into one of the most significant architectural destinations in the country. Even if you don't have time to stroll through the exhibitions, it's worth a trip to walk through their gorgeous grounds in Golden Gate Park.