Travel

San Francisco Museums and Galleries

Museum/Gallery neighborhood
Altman Siegel (Closed)
49 Geary St., Union Square
Claudia Altman-Siegel worked for Luhring Augustine Gallery in Chelsea (they represent such luminaries as Rachel Whiteread and Christopher Wool) for 10 years before striking out on her own with her namesake San Francisco gallery. Her space is inside the 49 Geary building in the Financial District, an unassuming structure that houses some of the best galleries in a hyper-convenient, if seemingly sterile, location. You can rely on her to show work from excellent newcomers from the local area and beyond, with a roster of bright stars like Garth Weiser and Sara VanDerBeek.
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
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.
Fraenkel Gallery
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. We love that the gallery is open six days a week, and, unlike many private galleries, you don't need an appointment to view the exhibitions.
Haines Gallery
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.
SFMoma
151 Third St., SoMa
After closing HQ for renovation and running their programming remotely for nearly three years, SF MOMA opened its doors to the public again in 2016. This renovation nearly tripled the size of the museum’s gallery space, expanding it from 70,000 to 170,000 square feet and giving it more exhibition space than even New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The impetus for all the new square footage? To devote space to a generous loan from collectors Doris and Donald Fisher, whose collection amasses a survey of contemporary American art that starts in the 1980s and continues to today—visitors can expect to see Chuck Close, Andy Warhol, and Ellsworth Kelly well represented, plus a strong showing of German art from that timeframe. There are also plenty of other must-see’s, including an expansive outdoor living wall, a room full of Clyfford Still behemoths, and Richard Serra sculptures that can be experienced for free by the public, as they occupy an open first floor. Tickets can be purchased in advance on their website.
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.
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