Summer Art Exhibits in San Francisco: Explore immersive audiovisual experiences, Yayoi Kusama’s iconic works, African design, virtual reality adaptations, emerging artists, and thematic galleries at SFMOMA.

Art Exhibits to Catch This Summer in San Francisco

In a time of dismal gallery closures, it’s heartening to see San Francisco’s arts community keep going strong. Here are a few art exhibits to catch this summer.

Explore an immersive audiovisual art experience featuring Bernie Krause’s recordings of animal sounds in this exhibit’s West Coast debut at the Exploratorium.

Yayoi Kusama: Infinite Love

SFMOMA’s first solo museum exhibition of the Japanese artist’s works opens this month. She’s well known for her psychedelic pumpkin sculptures and dreamlike universes featuring her signature polka dots.

Kusama’s first mirrored environmental work debuted in 1965, followed by a series of darkened Infinity Mirror Rooms that have become audience favorites worldwide. Her installations interweave pop art and psychedelia into paintings, performances, room-size presentations, and outdoor sculptural sculptures.

Sea Change

Landmark museums and champion art galleries offer a wealth of creativity, ingenuity and vibrant culture. From a new show by Ansel Adams to a metaverse NFT exhibition, discover the highlights of San Francisco’s diverse and dynamic arts scene.

This exhibition explores the many ways that African design accompanies and fuels social and economic change. From furniture and fashion to apps, books and maps, this exhibition showcases a wide array of creative forms.

Wu Tsang: Of Whales

Drawing from multidisciplinary research around Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, Wu Tsang and collective Moved by the Motion adapted this adaptation for virtual reality. The work traces the diving path of the sperm whale, with reflections suggesting oblique perspectives that transcend anthropocentrism.

Created on the Unity gaming platform, the dynamic oceanscape-cosmos envelops visitors for respite and contemplation. It was presented at the 59th Venice Biennale.

SFMOMA’s New Work gallery

Since 1987, SFMOMA’s New Work gallery has offered emerging artists a chance to explore their ideas in an exhibition context. The program has helped launch careers, including those of Matthew Barney and Kara Walker.

Sculptures in this show explore the human body, whether whole or fragmented. They rise from the gallery floor to engage visitors at a personal, embodied scale. This exhibition was supported by the Black Dog Private Foundation and Nion McEvoy.

Yayoi Kusama’s Aspiring to Pumpkin’s Love

The exhibition’s second space is clad in her acrylic-on-canvas paintings from the series Every Day I Pray for Love (2021–present). Boldly colored compositions underscore shape and brushwork, blurring the boundaries of abstraction and figuration.

Pumpkins are a constant in Kusama’s iconography. The show’s third space holds a trio of her gigantic sculptures that, despite being covered in dots, resemble living fruit.

SFMOMA’s New Acquisitions gallery

With a roomful of Warhols, a sun-filled gallery dedicated to modern British sculpture and a photographic collection that Benezra boasts might soon make SFMOMA one of the best in the country.

SFMOMA’s latest acquisitions, such as Rebecca Belmore’s Tarpaulin No. 1 (2018), reinforce the museum’s commitment to collecting works by artists with connections to the Bay Area. Wu Tsang’s immersive virtual reality and sound installation Of Whales (2022) is also new to the collection.

SFMOMA’s Thematic galleries

The museum’s thematic galleries explore unconventional thematic concepts that shed light on choices artists make. The exhibitions encourage visitors to actively engage with works in new ways and ask questions about the Museum’s collection.

Los Angeles-based artist Mario Ayala, rafa esparza, and Guadalupe Rosales use the visual language of lowriders to talk about cultural resistance and visibility. Their installation in the New Work gallery uses a Mesoamerican creation story to inspire reflections on social justice.

SFMOMA’s Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Atrium

It’s been a few months since the SFMOMA reopened after its three year renovation. The museum has received a huge thumbs up from both critics and visitors.

On the second level SFMOMA dedicates galleries to painting and sculpture. It also hosts special exhibitions on architecture and design.

Bryan Keith Thomas’ sculptural works are filled with historic symbols that celebrate the Black experience. He uses cotton, seeds, mirrors and church fans in his evocative pieces.

SFMOMA’s Ground Floor

With nearly tripling of gallery space and expanding unticketed exhibition areas, SFMOMA is more accessible than ever. TEECOM provided telecommunication and wireless systems engineering for the museum’s groundbreaking digital program.

In the New Work gallery, Fernando Palma Rodriguez presents mechatronic sculptures that evoke the Mesoamerican creation story. Other works explore identity, portraiture and human presence. SFMOMA’s Floor 7 terrace hosts the U.S. debut of Susan Philipsz’s Songs Sung in the First Person on Themes of Longing, Sympathy and Release.

SFMOMA’s Fifth Floor

With a new director, SFMOMA is making art more interactive and participatory. The museum’s renowned Alexander Calder mobiles move slowly in the breeze, triggered by visitors passing by.

Oakland-based artist Sadie Barnette’s large-scale wall project combines family photographs and images of otherworldly everyday objects to reflect on Black legacies and collective possibilities in space and time. See it in the free-to-visit Roberts Family Gallery.

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