The Five Best Art Museums in San Francisco

Explore the nuclei of San Francisco's cultural centers!

Hopper Editors - Oct. 26, 2017

In a city where the word "quirky" can describe almost anything in it, San Francisco is best known for its creative residents. Whether it’s seeing performance art at a warehouse in the Dogpatch or going to an underground Burning Man party featuring only-in-San Francisco art installations, this city and those who live in it have a taste for the arts. As such, the city’s art museums cater to an eclectic crowd. Everything from Asian art to cartoon graphics to community-inspired films are on display in San Francisco. These five museums are some of the best to keep the artsy folk entertained for days.

San Francisco's most cultural art museum is the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco

Asian culture has a very strong presence in San Francisco, so it’s no surprise that the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco is one of the city’s finest. The museum’s art spans a variety of Asian cultures from several centuries — some of which pre-date written history. The museum features more than 2,000 artworks that rotate regularly in its collection galleries. Because several Asian cultures follow the lunisolar calendar, the museum often showcases artwork based on the traditional lunar year. In honor of the Year of the Horse, for example, the museum featured several horse artworks such as "Drummer on Horseback," a Chinese ceramic sculpture.

Art that honors World War I soldiers at the California Palace of the Legion Of Honor

Located in Land’s End overlooking the point where the Pacific Ocean meets the San Francisco Bay, the California Palace of the Legion of Honor’s view alone will draw visitors to this fine arts museum. The French neoclassical architecture is a sight to see before even entering the building, which honors the California men who lost their lives in World War I. Perhaps the most famous piece housed inside the Legion courtyard is a bronze cast of Rodin’s "The Thinker" sculpture, which honors all poets and creators. The museum’s permanent collection of European paintings features more than 800 artworks by noteworthy artists ranging from Picasso to Rembrandt that span the 14th to the early 20th centuries.

Yerba Buena Center For The Arts supports the local art community

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts supports contemporary artists from around the world, while also serving the local San Francisco Bay Area art community. In fact, the museum hosts several art programs each month including YBCA In Community, which pairs professional artists with various underserved community members. The center has commissioned and presented more than 200 world premiere performances, exhibitions and films created by emerging artists. One such performance was when the Chitresh Das Dance Company performed a classical Indian dance that combined percussive footwork and drums with movement.

The De Young Museum offers priceless American art with a view

The De Young Museum, located in Golden Gate Park, houses 27,000 works of art and is especially known for its priceless collection of American art from the 17th through the 20th centuries. The Art of the Americas collection dates back to 200 BC, with a strong focus on Mesoamerican and Andean art featuring pieces made of stone and fared earthenware that survived the centuries. The fine arts museum has also commissioned contemporary artists to create specific pieces of art for the space. For instance, German artist Gerhard Richter created a large-scale mural, titled "Strontium," using 130 digitally manipulated photographs that form a geometric black-and-white motif. For those less interested in art and more interested in views, the building’s 144-foot observation tower features 360-degree views of the city, and visitors can take the elevator to the top floor at no cost.

Cartoon Art Museum is dedicated to our favorite heroes

Comic lovers will geek out at the Cartoon Art Museum located in San Francisco’s SOMA District. The museum features more than 6,000 pieces of original cartoon and animation art, including everything from editorial cartoons to comic books to graphic novels to the Sunday funnies and Saturday morning cartoons. The museum opened in 1987 with an endowment from Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz, so it’s guaranteed that visitors will be greeted by Charlie Brown and Snoopy. However, the museum also features touring exhibitions such as "Superman: A 75th Anniversary Celebration," which was hosted in 2013 in honor of the famous comic hero.

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