It’s no secret that San Francisco is one of the most culturally rich cities on the planet. Beyond the burgeoning tech sector there is a thriving art scene punctuated by numerous acclaimed institutions. For the purpose of this piece we will run through our five favorite museums in the Bay Area, and point out some exciting upcoming exhibits and exhibitions.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
We start with a big one, one of the biggest modern art museums in existence actually. The SFMOMA opened its doors back in 1935, but was significantly remodeled and expanded from 2013-2016. It now stands as one of the most vibrant contemporary art institutions you’ll find, with 145,000 square feet of space. For comparison, the world-renowned MOMA in New York is only 125,000 square feet. The halls of SFMOMA are filled with the work of modern masters in every medium imaginable. From March 11th through May 29th they’re running a Matisse/Diebenkorn exhibition that features over 100 paintings from the two legendary painters. The new SFMOMA is a must visit.
Many styles of art originated in Asia centuries ago, and a visit to the Asian Art Museum will serve to deepen one’s appreciation of the region’s contributions. As one of the largest collections of Asian art in the world, the work therein is remarkable diverse. Collections range from ink paintings and sculptures to pottery and clothing, photography and metal work to name only a few. The space is enchanting, as it feels entirely separate from the city outside its doors. Until October, 29th they’re running an intriguing collaborative exhibition between artist Shahzia Sikander and Pulitzer Prize winning writer Ayad Akhtar entitled A Journey Into the Great Unknown.
The Exploratorium is known throughout the U.S. as one of the most unique and engaging science museums. If you’re at all interested in the way the world works, you simply must drop by here. Unlike most museums, many of the exhibits here are interactive, kids and adults alike adore learning about sound resonance, greenhouse gases and building musical instruments out of coat hangers. Just…just go, it’s worth it.
This stunning fine arts museum is worth it for the setting alone. The exterior has a very stately and gothic feel and is built around its premiere feature, Rodin’s iconic Thinker statue. The museum also overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge and houses a collection of European and ancient art that spans over 4,000 years. Through May, 29th they are featuring an exhibition entitled Monet: The Early Years which consists of 60 paintings Monet created between 1858 and 1872. Go for the setting, stay for the art.
For the last 33 years, the Contemporary Jewish Museum has been presenting wonderfully unique and enlightening exhibitions and educational programs highlighting various aspect of Jewish culture. While it’s not anywhere near as large as the other selections on this list, what it lacks in size it makes up for in character and depth. Not unlike the glimmering new residential skyscraper 181 Fremont, the building itself is quite a stunner. Designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, the hyper-modern design consists of two geometric shapes laid atop one another in an asymmetric pose that almost looks like they’re dancing, or holding hands. Right now, they are running an exhibition of the work Cary Leibowitz which is the first career survey of the acclaimed New York artist.