10 Must-Visit Contemporary Art Galleries In San Francisco
A vibrant and diverse city, San Francisco boasts an equally eclectic contemporary art scene. Galleries filled with paintings, sculptures and photography by local, national, and international artists will keep visitors content for days. We’ve put together an updated list of some of the best spaces to experience contemporary art in San Francisco.
Courtesy of 111 Minna Gallery
Established in 1993 by Eiming Jung, 111 Minna Gallery specializes in a variety of art forms, from edgy visual arts and live DJs and film screenings. Located downtown in the SoMa area, the 4,000+ square-foot urban industrial space – complete with exposed pipes and original hardwood floors – can easily be changed to best highlight each monthly exhibition or evening event. Past shows have featured artists such as Mike Davis, whose Surrealist works display early Renaissance Netherland influences, and photographer Kelly Nicolaisen’s vibrant prints.
Founded in 1982 by Andrea Schwartz, the eponymous Andrea Schwartz Gallery focuses on contemporary paintings by mid-career artists. In 2012, the gallery moved to the SoMa area, taking over a 2,400 square-foot space complete with 20-foot ceilings. Hosting several exhibitions each year, the gallery also actively participates in art fairs throughout the country in order for artists to reach a wider audience. Andrew Burgess, whose paintings depict cityscapes and urban scenes, mixed media artist Barbara Kronlins, and Donald Bradford are just a few of the artists that can be found at this gallery.
Consistently voted the ‘Best Art Gallery’ by readers of the Bay Area A List, ArtHaus is a SoMa gallery specialising in museum-quality artworks. Founded in 1996 by James Bacchi and Annette Schutz, this 1,750 square-foot art space features two rooms in which an eclectic array of different medias and styles of art from New York are displayed. The main gallery features rotating exhibitions of both gallery and guest artists, including sculptor Riis Burwell and mixed media artist Andrea Arroyo. In addition to the two galleries, they also have an ‘ArtHaus Out & About’ program that exhibits artworks at the San Francisco Design Center.
Markus Schinwald Exhibition | Courtesy of CCA Wattis Institute
Founded in 1991, the Catharine Clark Gallery is an acclaimed space that specializes in a variety of content-driven contemporary works. Located in the Potrero Hill neighborhood in what used to be a door factory, this gallery is the first commercial art space within San Francisco to have a designated media room. Every six weeks, a new exhibition takes place and features artists such as ceramicist Wanxin Zhang, Dutch artist Ellen Kooi, and painter Timothy Cummings.
Markus Schinwald Exhibition Courtesy of CCA Wattis Institute
CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art
CCA Wattis Institute, San Francisco | Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
Established in 1998 at the California College of the Arts, CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art is a venue for exhibitions as well as a place for research. Exhibitions focus on one artist at a time. A joint venture with SFMOMA, this site-specific installation features sculptures made from Chippendale-style table legs that wrap around poles as well as modified 19th century paintings. Wattis also has one artist in residence plus one artist that is the focus of a research project.
Established in 1979, Fraenkel Gallery has hosted numerous — almost 300 — exhibitions exploring photography and how it relates to other art forms, including painting, drawing and sculpture. Compared to other arts, photography has a short history, which has allowed the gallery to showcase both early masters of photography and contemporary talent. Artists highlighted over the years represent a diverse group and include Carleton Watkins, Diane Arbus, Robert Adams, and Hiroshi Sugimoto to name but a few.
Gallery 444, San Francisco | Courtesy of The McLoughlin Gallery
Founded by Bettie Mitchell in 1980, Gallery 444 is a family-owned and operated art gallery located in Union Square. Selling only original works, the gallery features a diverse group of talent – both national and international artists. Spectators will find early and recent works by Bolivian artist Graciela Rodo Boulanger, whose colourful works often depict children, as well as the dog sculptures of Marty Goldstein and surrealistic paintings by Rafal Olbinski. Some artists, including Australian surrealist William Johns and Pop artist DAX, are exclusively represented by Gallery 444.
Striving to display art that will make spectators think, The McLoughlin Gallery is a welcoming art space dedicated to representing established mid-career artists and emerging talent. Seeking out colorful artworks the express emotion, a talented group of artists have exhibited their works in this space, including painter Kristina Quinones, Cristobal Valecillos and mixed media artist Kirstine Roepstorff. This gallery also sets out to help the community by donating a portion of their proceeds to charities, including Glide and Stanford Breast Cancer Research.
Founded in 2003 by Justin Giarla, Shooting Gallery is an art space focusing on newly-established artists. Located in the Tenderloin District within a historic building, spectators will find an eclectic array of pop Surrealism, figurative realism and color abstraction by national and international artists. Some of the artists represented include KEFE (Kelly Tunstall and Ferris Plock) and Lauren Napolitano, who often uses found objects in her work. One of the largest galleries on the West Coast, Shooting Gallery shares its 5,000 square foot space with its sister gallery, White Walls.
Established in 2003 by Rab Terry and Jennifer Farris, Studio Gallery is a great venue created specifically to showcase art by local artists. Highlighting fine arts, crafts, and home furnishings, visitors will find a variety of media at any given time. This art space also hosts several exhibitions each year, which consist of a solo artist or group. Past solo exhibitions include artists Lindsey Kustusch, whose paintings are inspired by San Francisco and Dallas, and the works of Michael Chamberlain, who captures moments of his day-to-day life in his paintings.