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12 Exhibition Openings In SF To Get Excited For In 2016

Picture of Victoria Lau
Updated: 30 October 2016
San Francisco is a dense city of hills, cable cars, and perennial fog. Its culinary delights are endless, as are the plethora of watering holes to satisfy your thirst. And if that doesn’t keep you occupied enough, well then, San Francisco is also a city of museums and art galleries. With such exciting exhibits coming up for 2016, you might want to ditch Dolores Park on a sunny day and get your culture on.


Oscar de la Renta: The Retrospective Mar. 12 – May 30, 2016

The de Young

Dress to impress. Even those who aren’t into fashion will have to rethink their style when it comes to Oscar de la Renta. The late fashion designer was known for making women feel beautiful with his classic and elegant designs, dressing everyone from celebrities to First Ladies. With a career spanning over five decades, this exhibit showcases some of de la Renta’s finest work. Visitors are thrust into a colorful visual feast, from iconic gowns that were once donned by famous actresses, to original ensembles from his private collection. This is one fashion show you won’t want to miss.

The de Young, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 (415) 750-3600


Stanley Kubrick Jun. 30 – Oct. 30, 2016

Contemporary Jewish Museum

Keep your eyes wide open for this exhibit. Stanley Kubrick comes to life in a showcase of his greatest works and contributions to the film industry. Kubrick was known as a perfectionist, and many of his films were praised for innovative cinematography. His films are often noted for his signature use of music, sound, and imagery, all aimed to reach his audience’s emotions and subconscious. The exhibit will feature scripts, production photography, costumes, and props from his famous films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Eyes Wide Shut, as well as projects that were never completed.

Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 (415) 655-7800


Mel Shaw: An Animator On Horseback Jan. 13 – Sept. 12, 2016

The Walt Disney Family Museum

Revive childhood memories of classic Disney movies with a behind the scenes look at one of Disney’s most legendary artists, Mel Shaw. His strong passion for horses combined with his gifted talent as an artist and storyteller led to his success at The Walt Disney Studios. Some of his contributions include famous films such as Fantasia, The Fox and the Hound, and The Lion King. On view are Shaw’s sketches, storyboards, and conceptual artwork, as well as never before seen artifacts from his collection.  

The Walt Disney Family Museum, 104 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 (415) 345-6800


Model Behavior May 14, 2016 – Jan. 16, 2017


SFMOMA has been closed for renovation and expansion since 2013, and eager museum goers awaiting its reopening this May will be handsomely rewarded. For architecture and design buffs, there is an exhibit on the museum itself. On display will be sketches and models to take visitors through the design process behind the expansion of the museum. It’s even gone tech too, with a mobile app to explore the new architecture. Think of it as your own personal docent.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 151 3rd Street, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 (415) 357-4000


Prisoners Of Age Exhibit Jul. 10, 2015 – Jun. 31, 2016

The Alcatraz Island

A visit to Alcatraz Island is a must do for any tourist to San Francisco, but now locals have an incentive to reserve their cruise tickets too. This award-winning exhibition, featuring 60 immense photographs of prisoners of age, took place over a span of 18 years to complete. The project chronicles these elderly inmates and their stories, as well as conversations from guards and prison officials. Their chilling tales will send shivers down your spine as you stare into the eyes of their towering portraits while wandering through the ghosts of prisons past.

Alcatraz Cruises, Pier 33, San Francisco Pier 33 – Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 (415) 981-7625


Hidden Gold: Mining Its Meaning In Asian Art Mar. 4 – May 8, 2016

Asian Art Museum

Long before the forty-niners panned for gold, ancient cultures worshipped it. For the secret gold digger in all of us, this exhibit explores the meaning of gold through 1,500 years of history across diverse Asian cultures. What were gold’s practical uses and what did it symbolize? Discover ancient textiles, manuscripts, statues, and paintings, to uncover gold’s long-standing history. Of course, this gold exhibit wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the Golden State’s own history as it relates to this precious metal.

Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 (415) 581-3500


California And The West May 14 – Sept. 5, 2016


We all know that the West Coast is the best coast, but was it always that way? This photo exhibit takes a look at California and the American West as seen from the camera lens of famous photographers from the 20th century, such as Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange. Sepia tinged photographs of landscapes, national parks, and even a vintage Golden Gate Bridge reveal the evolution of the Golden State as we know it today. The chronological exhibit will lead visitors on a photographic journey from the 1800s to the present, while examining the progress of photography as an art form.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 151 3rd Street, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 (415) 357-4000


Bill Graham And The Rock And Roll Revolution Mar. 17 – Jul. 5, 2016

Contemporary Jewish Museum

Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco frequently hosts some biggest music concerts in the Bay Area, from The Grateful Dead and Red Hot Chili Peppers, to A$AP Rocky and Calvin Harris. Most recently it held the NFL Honors awards show for Super Bowl 50. So who is this legendary Bill Graham? From fleeing the Holocaust to his eventual rise as rock concert promoter, Graham brought many great musical artists to San Francisco. He left behind a legacy that transformed rock music into the global industry that it is today. Rock on.

Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 (415) 655-7800


Emperors’ Treasures Jun. 17 – Sept. 18, 2016

Asian Art Museum

Even if you haven’t saved up enough money for your next big trip to China, there’s always the Asian Art Museum. For the first time on display in the U.S., this exhibit will showcase paintings, ceramics, and other items that for many years lay hidden from behind the walls of Beijing’s Forbidden City. An examination of the artwork reveals how these masterpieces were passed down to each dynasty, as well as the evolution of the changing styles of art through the years.

Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 (415) 581-3500

Jeffry Mitchell Mar. 18 – May 14, 2016

Minnesota Street Project

Far from your great grandma’s porcelain collection, this 22 ceramic plate art installation is the latest creation from the playful imagination of artist Jeffry Mitchell. Mitchell is known for his whimsical ceramic sculptures. With diverse influences ranging from Chinese calligraphy to elephants, it is hard to summarize his aesthetic in one word. The artist’s self-titled exhibit also includes linens, paintings, and other sculptures, all fused with polar themes. Showcased in one of San Francisco’s latest art galleries, this is one exhibition where you might have too much on your plate.

Minnesota Street Project, 1275 Minnesota Street, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 (415) 243-0825



Sublime Beauty: Raphael’s ‘Portrait Of A Lady with A Unicorn’ Jan. 9 – Apr. 10, 2016

Legion of Honor

Fans of the Mona Lisa masterpiece will flock to this other famous Renaissance lady. Sublime Beauty is focused on Raphael’s famed painting, Portrait of a Lady with a Unicorn. He was one of the prominent Renaissance artists during the 1500s. With influences from Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael’s artwork is noted for his perfect composition of portraits. This exhibit explores in depth the painter’s masterpiece, including the identity of the woman in the painting and the meaning of the unicorn in her lap. It might just be proof that unicorns do exist.

The Legion of Honor, 100 34th Avenue, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 (415) 750-3600


Bring It Home: (Re)Locating Cultural Legacy Through The Body Jan. 22 – May 7, 2016

SFAC Gallery

Want to get in touch with the local art scene? Head over to the SFAC Galleries to check out their newly expanded space and locally curated exhibitions. Bring It Home is comprised of art from 10 emerging and established Bay Area artists. The artwork includes a broad range of mediums, from paintings to video. The common thread amongst the artists’ work is their use of the body to express themes of cultural identity, including religion, family, assimilation, and nationalism. Admission is free.

San Francisco Arts Commission, 401 Van Ness Ave. #325, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 (415) 252-2100