The Best San Diego Art Galleries, According to Local Gallerists

San Diego has a thriving art scene captured by its varied and eclectic galleries
San Diego has a thriving art scene captured by its varied and eclectic galleries | © Howard Lipin / U-T San Diego / ZUMA Wire / Alamy Live News
Alex Wexelman

Staff Writer

San Diego’s art museums are beloved, but its galleries, free and open to the public, are easily accessible. These are San Diego’s best art galleries according to gallerists themselves.

For years now, San Diego‘s Barrio Logan neighborhood has been providing refuge for a burgeoning artistic community. Its warehouse spaces have been converted into gallery spaces, such as La Bodega, and its history as a Mexican-American community means it has a tradition of murals dating back to the 1960s. For example, protestors who occupied the land today known as Chicano Park painted colorful murals depicting the trials and tribulations of San Diego’s Mexican population on the pillars of a bridge that threatened the park’s status as a public space. Today, Chicano Park is home to the largest collection of Chicano murals in the world, and it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2016.

Barrio Logan is one of the 14 official California Cultural Districts and abounds with galleries where local art is available to the public. Other neighborhoods such as the Gaslamp Quarter, La Jolla and Downtown San Diego have thriving art scenes captured by the eclectic galleries that display these works. Culture Trip reached out to three gallery owners in San Diego – Sonya Sparks, owner of Sparks Gallery, and Paul Basile and Chris Martino of basileIE – to recommend the best galleries in San Diego.

Sonya Sparks

Sonya Sparks’ eponymous gallery, located in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter, showcases contemporary art by Southern California artists and serves as an event space. Sparks primarily chose galleries that, like her own, are female-owned and -operated. Her picks below:

Art Gallery

“Adelman Fine Art is a boutique gallery in Little Italy that is easy to walk to from neighboring restaurants and features bold and bright works, many from artists who are based in San Diego,” Sparks says.

Art Gallery

“Distinction Gallery is a well-established gallery in Escondido. The primary genres of work shown are Contemporary Realism, Surrealism and Urban Art with a focus on the figure,” Sparks says. “The gallery has recently renovated the space to include a bar and continues to support emerging artists and teens with its nonprofit called ArtHatch.”

Art Gallery

“Art Produce is an artist-run storefront in the diverse and historic community of North Park,” Sparks explains. “While the gallery is open by appointment only, the gallery installations are viewable to the public from the sidewalk due to the large storefront windows. Exhibitions are often installation-based or sculptural.”

Art Gallery

“Artist Irina Negulescu has transformed her studio to showcase exhibitions featuring not only her work, but other artists who share similar styles (namely figural, sensual and expressive),” Sparks says.

Art Gallery

“Madison Gallery showcases contemporary artwork from both emerging, mid-career and established artists, and is located in Solana Beach,” Sparks explains. “The gallery also offers in-home collection curatorial services, personal collection development and curating, on-site consultation, virtual previews and international sourcing.”

Paul Basile and Chris Martino

The art space basileIE is a collaboration between Paul Basile, owner of Basile Studio, and artist and curator Chris Martino, owner of CM Curatorial. Located in Barrio Logan, basileIE showcases and supports progressive contemporary art. Their picks, with some light editing for clarity, below:

Art Gallery

“[This space is an] experimental center for the arts with strong community ties that always has interesting and provocative exhibitions that make you think,” Basile and Martino say. “It’s comprised of multiple galleries and exhibition spaces, housed inside an old industrial building in Logan Heights.”

Art Gallery

“This hidden gem operates with sketchy hours (by luck and appointment only),” Basile and Martino, who own the space, point out. “However, if you make it into the former warehouse in Barrio Logan, it features solid exhibitions focusing on the powerful axis of experience and aesthetics that runs from Tijuana to Los Angeles through San Diego. Bonus: Don’t miss ‘Barrio Tiki,’ San Diego’s most unique tiki-themed space, hidden in the back, located in a room filled with paintings that leads to an adjacent patio designed by artist C. Martino.”

Art Gallery

“This big, new space, a move necessitated after a rent hike, retains the same passionate commitment to featuring the best and brightest in Chicano art and beyond,” Basile and Martino explain. “La Bodega, located in what used to be a steel warehouse on National Avenue – less than a mile from the original location it held for six years – is the beating heart of Barrio Logan’s vibrant local arts community.”

Art Gallery

“Quint Gallery is the gold standard for contemporary art in San Diego,” Basile and Martino say. “It features blue-chip national and international artists, while also maintaining room for regional standouts and local up-and-comers.”

Art Gallery

“This scrappy, much-loved creative space adds a lot to the local community and arts culture,” Basile and Martino say. “Teros Gallery hosts awesome events on the regular, with an inviting, open atmosphere that welcomes both neighborhood regulars and first-time visitors alike.”

Art Gallery

“Thumbprint, the well-established gallery in La Jolla, provides an eclectic and engaging atmosphere to view art by local, national and international artists,” Basile and Martino explain. “The space features pop-ups in addition to the monthly exhibitions that showcase emerging, mid-career and established artists with a particular focus on contemporary pop culture, nostalgia, Urban Art and Pop Surrealism.”

For more information and to start planning your own trip, visit

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.