Illuminate SF Artists and Collectives | San Francisco Travel
Leo Villareal

Illuminate SF
Meet the Artists

Get to know the creators and collectives behind San Francisco’s incredible light art installations. 

Every year, Illuminate SF brightens the city with a variety of light art installations scattered throughout San Francisco’s neighborhoods. From the fields of Golden Gate Park to the terminals of San Francisco International Airport, Illuminate SF shines far and wide.

Get to know the talented, award-winning, and boundary-breaking artists who help bring San Francisco’s longest nights to dazzling life each winter.

Vito Acconci

  • Light Beams for the Sky of a Transfer Corridor (SFO)

Vito Acconci’s artwork and architecture are based on social interactions between people and the blurring of public and private space. His utopian, biomorphic designs aim to approximate the complexity of living organisms. In 1988 he founded Acconci Studio, an architectural practice with public commissions around the world.


  • The Seed (Castro)

Aphidoidea [Ahh-fi-doe-idea] is a multi-disciplinary art, design, and architecture collective. Led by architects Jesus Eduardo Magaña, Paulina Bouyer-Magana, Jackie Muñoz, and Andrew Hernandez, the collective creates site-specific art installations that engage the user and enhance the built environment. Their installations employ a variety of materials, ranging from ephemeral to the permanent, and technology based to analogue application.

Shimon Attie and Vale Bruck

  • Spiral of Gratitude (Mission Bay)

For two decades, Shimon Attie has made art that reflects on the relationship between place, memory and identity. He is particularly concerned with issues of loss, communal trauma and the potential for regeneration. Attie has created a number of multiple-channel immersive HD video installations, including a commission by the BBC and Arts Council of Wales on the 40th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster. Vale Bruck is a large-scale art installationist and artisan woodworker based out of Eastern Pennsylvania, who has worked on and directed major projects all over the world. Over the course of four years, he collaborated with Shimon Attie to concept and subsequently create Spiral of Gratitude.

Nayland Blake

  • Constellation (Civic Center)

Nayland Blake is one of the most intellectually and aesthetically agile contemporary artists, producing work of incisive clarity as a curator, artist, writer, and teacher. Interracial desire, same-sex love, and racial and sexual bigotry are recurrent themes in Blake's sculptures, drawings, performances, and videos, which reflect his preoccupation with his own racial and sexual identities. Blake currently chairs the International Photography Center-Bard MFA program and lives and works in Brooklyn.

Nayland Blake
Nayland Blake

Jim Campbell

  • Ocean Mirror with Fragments (Inner Sunset)
  • Day for Night (Embarcadero)

Exploring the line between representation and abstraction, Jim Campbell plumbs the human ability to interpret information and "fill in the gaps" necessary to create a complete idea. His exploration of the distinction between the analogue world and its digital representation metaphorically parallels the difference between poetic understanding versus the mathematics of data. While Campbell's works typically use flat grids of evenly spaced LEDs, he has recently begun to "pull apart" two-dimensional imagery, presenting it in a three-dimensional format.

James Carpenter

  • Four Sculptural Light Reflectors (SFO)

James Carpenter began exhibiting light-based art works while developing new glass materials at Corning Glass Works. Since establishing James Carpenter Design Associates in 1978, he has been integrating a synthesis of light into building structures. Carpenter studied with glass sculptor Dale Chihuly, and is the recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Architecture Award, the American Institute of Architects Honor Award, and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.

Jerry van Eyck

  • The Wind-Baffles (SoMa)

Jerry van Eyck is the founder of !melk, a New York-based award-winning urban design and landscape architecture practice. !melk has won numerous noteworthy competitions, including the Citylife development in Milan, Italy, the Theme Pavilion Gardens of the 2014 World Horticultural Expo in Qingdao, China, and the design for Hance Park, a 32-acres central urban park in Downtown Phoenix, AZ. Jerry is a globally respected lecturer, and serves as a visiting critic at design institutions, including the University of Pennsylvania PennDesign, The Harvard GSD, The Yale School of Architecture, Columbia University’s GSAPP, and the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Currently, Jerry is a member of the Board of Governors of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, and of the United States General Services Administration’s Nation Register of Peer Professionals.

Olafur Eliasson

  • Seeing Spheres (Mission Bay)

Olafur Eliasson grew up in Iceland and Denmark. Eliasson’s projects in public space include Serpentine Gallery Pavilion (2007), designed with Kjetil Thorsen for London’s Kensington Gardens; The New York City Waterfalls (2008); and Ice Watch, for which Eliasson and geologist Minik Rosing transported massive blocks of glacial ice from Greenland to Copenhagen (2014), Paris (2015), and London (2018) to raise awareness of climate change.

Olafur Eliasson
Olafur Eliasson

Spencer Finch

  • Orion (SFO)

Light and its color are ultimately the subjects that fascinate Finch—along with the perceptual, physiological, psychological, and linguistic workings that influence how we experience them. Like many artists and thinkers who have inspired him and who turn up in his work, Finch is continuously celebrating and grappling with the beauty and enigmas of light and color. His mix of science and poetry is fitting for a subject that is equally tied to science and art.

Dan Flavin

  • “monument" for V. Tatlin and untitled (in honor of Leo...) (SoMa)

Dan Flavin created light installations (or “situations,” as he preferred to call them) utilizing fluorescent light tubing that became icons of Minimalism. Flavin began incorporating electric lights into his works in the early 1960s with his breakthrough Icons series. Having hit upon his chosen medium, he abandoned painting altogether, focusing on light works for the remainder of his career. Like the work of his fellow Minimalists, Flavin's art is clean, industrially produced, and serially repeating. Working with prefabricated rather than handcrafted materials allowed him to focus on the light itself and the way in which it transformed, or “sculpted" the exhibition space. His wall- and floor-mounted site-specific fixtures, composed of intersecting and parallel lines of light in conventional colors, flood spaces with their glow.

Charles Gadeken

  • Entwined (Golden Gate Park)

Inspired by the objects, structures and processes in the world around us, Charles’ art depicts natural objects in fantastic ways and realizes the potential for serendipity in everyday life. Often incorporating and developing technology for various effects — LEDs, flame, hydraulics, and electricity — to increase the visual and physical impact of his work, he seeks to instill a sense of play into the environment.

Cliff Garten

  • Ethereal Bodies (Potrero Hill)
  • Monarch (Mission Bay)

Cliff Garten’s artistic approach toward civic sculpture explores the expressive potential of infrastructure. He has completed more than fifty sculptures throughout the U.S. and Canada. By connecting people to places through sculptural material, social history, and ecology, his civic sculptures locate the latent potential within a public space.

Cliff Garten
Cliff Garten

Lisa Gemmiti

  • San Francisco at Night: Model Art Map (Yerba Buena)

Lisa Gemmiti has dedicated her career to the production and use of physical scale models. Her work has been delivered to 20 different countries and displays astonishing structures, from the heights of Mount Everest to the intricacies of a single strand of DNA. Lisa has taught Advanced Model Making at Academy of Art University, consulted with industrial design students at California College of the Arts on their thesis projects, and has been a regular presenter to architecture students at Stanford University.

Brian Goggin and Dorka Keehn

  • Language of the Birds* (North Beach) & Caruso's Dream (Central Market)

Brian Goggin has left his mark on the West Coast with his whimsical and vibrant layering of found objects and chaos-provoking sculptures. Dorka Keehn is an award-winning public artist and San Francisco Arts Commissioner experienced who works with both established and emerging artists, providing support throughout the entire creative process.

Johanna Grawunder

  • Coding (SFO Airport)

Johanna Grawunder works on a broad range of projects, from large-scale public lighting and color installations to architectural interventions and interiors to limited-edition furniture and light collections. Her work is included in many museum's permanent collections, including the High Museum Atlanta; LACMA; CNAP; SFMOMA; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Art Institute Chicago; Denver Art Museum; and Musée des Arts Décoratifs Paris.

Haddad | Drugan

  • Bayview Rise (Bayview, Pier 92)

Laura Haddad and Tom Drugan are an artist team whose work is all about phenomenology and perception. Their site-specific artwork engages with its context and forms a continuously transforming medium of exchange between systems, ideas, and interventions. The art is often activated by natural phenomena like light and water, and when possible incorporates alternative energy sources and other sustainable practices. Their work has received awards from various agencies including Americans for the Arts, and has been published in Sculpture, Landscape Architecture, Land Forum, Landscape Journal and Arcade.


Johanna Grawunder
johanna Grawunder

Jenny Holzer

  • White Light (SoMa/Yerba Buena)

For more than forty years, Jenny Holzer has presented her astringent ideas, arguments, and sorrows in public places and international exhibitions, including 7 World Trade Center, the Venice Biennale, the Guggenheim Museums in New York and Bilbao, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Her medium—whether formulated as a T-shirt, a plaque, or an LED sign—is writing, and the public dimension is integral to the delivery of her work. Her practice has combatted ignorance and violence with humor, kindness, and courage.

Walter Hood

  • Bow (Pier 22 ½)

Walter Hood, creative director and founder of Hood Design Studio in Oakland, recently designed a public artwork that can be found on the city’s new floating Fireboat Station No. 35. Bow creates an observation platform on Pier 22 ½ with views of the Bay Bridge. The piece is made of wood, painted steel, aluminum, and glass, creating translucent panels. On the glass panels are historic photos that were selected by artists with close connections to the San Francisco’s Fire Department.

HYBYCOZO: Yelena Filipchuk & Serge Beaulieu

  • Illuminavia (South Beach)

Before creating HYBYCOZO, Yelena was at Google and YouTube, where she worked with musicians and artists to enforce their copyright and assure they got paid for their videos to the platform. Serge Beaulieu is a veteran industrial designer, graphic artist and maker. The first of their HYBYCOZO installations debuted at Burning Man 2014, with additional installations at the Islamic Arts Festival in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates; San Francisco’s Exploratorium and Treasure Island Festival.


  • Hope Will Never Be Silent (Castro)

Illuminate rallies large groups of people together to create impossible works of public art that, through awe, free humanity's better nature. The “Hope Will Never Be Silent” installation, which sits atop the Soul Cycle building in the Castro, is a direct quote from San Francisco’s iconic Harvey Milk.

Jenny Holzer
Jenny Holzer

Ned Kahn

  • Wind Portal (SFO)

The planet’s complex, random perturbations become manifested visually, tactilely and acoustically in Ned Kahn’s work. At times, he re-creates environmental conditions in controlled settings; and at other times, he lets nature animate his art. In replicating the forms and forces of nature, his environmental artworks elicit mythic and contemporary associations with elegant simplicity.

Joseph Kosuth

  • W.F.T. (Civic Center)

Joseph Kosuth typically works in an architectural context. His work can be found in significant historic buildings around the world, including the Louvre in Paris. According to Kosuth, “The basis of this project is language itself. It is a work that is both a reflection on its own construction as well as on the history and culture of its own location.”

Dave Lane

  • Lamp of the Covenant (Yerba Buena)

Dave Lane is also a highly literate engineer who works for the California Department of Water Resources, maintaining the structural integrity of levees that protect the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta’s 98 islands. His creations are in the tradition of found sculpture, and explore the vast world out beyond the buildings and banalities we erect to protect ourselves from what’s always looming over us — the immensity of time, the endlessness of space, the great outdoors on a literally cosmic scale.

Daniel Libeskind

  • Yud and PaRDeS, (Yerba Buena)

An international figure in architecture and urban design, Daniel Libeskind is renowned for his ability to evoke cultural memory in buildings. Informed by a deep commitment to music, philosophy, literature, and poetry, he aims to create architecture that is resonant, unique and sustainable. In 2003, Studio Libeskind won the historic competition to create a master plan for the rebuilding of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan.

Joseph Kosuth
Joseph Kosuth


  • Lumina (Yerba Buena)

Founded in 2003 by Petia Morozov and Jose Alcala, MADLAB is an award-winning, internationally published architecture firm noted for its research and innovative design services. The firm’s disciplinary core is comprised of architecture, industrial design and urban design, with influences from the fields of landscape, ecology, art, cognitive sciences, engineering and urban theory. MADLAB's current work includes innovative installations, interventions and ground-breaking works, creating interactive environments that sit between the worlds of architecture, site-specific installation art, and media design.

Merge Conceptual Design

  • Sky (SFO)

Comprised of the artist team Franka Diehnelt and Claudia Reisenberger, Merge was founded in 2003 to create site-specific work generated by a research-based narrative approach. Artwork is informed by the space and the stories each individual site generates. Merge draws on a shared background in architecture and art collaborations to bring a rich technical background and a unique design sensibility to all projects.

Anna Valentina Murch

  • Archipelago (Potrero)

Born in Scotland and raised in London, artist Anna Murch moved to the Bay Area in 1976 and had a live-work studio at Project Artaud. She taught at the San Francisco Art Institute, UC Berkeley and Mills College. Long interested in the sounds of water and wind and in the way light reflects, Murch was working on six large public commissions with her husband, environmental artist Doug Hollis, when she died of cancer in March 2014.

Ivan Navarro

  • THE LADDER (Sun or Moon) (Mid Market)

Ivan Navarro (born in 1972 in Santiago, under the Pinochet dictatorship), uses light as his raw material, turning common objects into electric sculptures and transforming spaces by means of visual interplay. Echoing the minimalist works of Dan Flavin, Navarro’s light sculptures subvert the cool detachment of florescent bulbs with their arrangement into recognizable objects. His work is certainly playful, but is also haunted by questions of power, control, and imprisonment.

Anna Valentina Murch
Anna Valentina Murch

David Normal

  • Cathenge (Hayes Valley)

David Normal was born in San Francisco in 1970, and began his career in the late 80s making punk fliers around the Bay Area. In the 90s, he worked extensively on very large scale sculptures for the annual Burning Man festival. Cathenge, which is a brand new year long installation, is a multiscensory “Holofenity Sound Light Sculptur.” It features six 3D-printed illuminated cat sculptures, which are perched upon a pedestal decorated with laser-cut space cat-themed motifs and metallic gilding. The installation also features a motion-sensored sound component.

Jorge Pardo

  • Untitled Van Ness Avenue Installation (Civic Center)

Pardo’s artwork explores the intersection of contemporary painting, design, sculpture, and architecture. Employing a broad palette of vibrant colors, eclectic patterns, and natural and industrial materials, Pardo’s works range from murals to home furnishings to collages to larger-than-life fabrications. Working on small and monumental scales, Pardo also treats entire public spaces as vast canvases. Pardo engages viewers with works that produce great visual delight while questioning distinctions between fine art and design.

Matthew Passmore

  • Handsignals (Mission)

Matthew Passmore is best known as the original founder of the Rebar Art & Design Studio. In 2014, he formed MoreLab, a new creative endeavor focused specifically on public art projects, museum exhibitions and innovative public spaces. Recently completed projects include Urbanauts, an 18-month artist fellowship at the de Young Museum in San Francisco and Kaleidoscape, a three-year social sculpture project at the Berkeley Art Museum.

Jim Sanborn

  • Anima (Mission Bay)

Best known for creating the encrypted sculpture Kryptos at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, Jim Sanborn has been building science-based installations for many years. Themes in his work have included “making the invisible visible,” with many sculptures focusing on topics such as the Earth's magnetic fields, the Coriolis effect, secret messages, and mysteries of atomic reactions.

Jorge Pardo
Jorge Pardo

Keith Sonnier

  • Ceiling Flood (SFO)

A conceptual artist and sculptor who was an influential part of the Process Art Movement, Keith Sonnier radically reinvented sculpture in the late 1960s, employing unusual materials never before used. In 1968, the artist began working with neon, which quickly became a defining element of his work. The linear quality of neon allows Sonnier to draw in space with light and color, while the diffuseness of the light enables his work to interact on various architectural planes.

Eric Staller

  • Spirogyrate (SFO)

Well known for his Urban UFO’s such as Volkswagen Lightmobile, a 1967 Beetle covered with 1659 computerized light bulbs, Eric Staller is an early practitioner of performance art, light painting and the creation of art cars. In the 1970s, he took to the streets of New York at night to choreograph his long-exposure photography, creating sweeping arcs and tunnels of light by running with sparklers attached to a broomstick—the result is blazing, astonishingly uniform grooves of light piercing the still and darkened streets.

Taravat Talepasand

  • Peace in the Middle East (Yerba Buena)

Taravat Talepasand is an artist, activist, and educator whose labor-intensive interdisciplinary painting practice questions normative cultural behaviors within contemporary power imbalances. As an Iranian-American woman, Talepasand explores the cultural taboos that reflect on gender and political authority. Her approach to figuration reflects the cross-pollination—or lack thereof—in our western society.

Hank Willis Thomas

  • LOVE OVER RULES (Yerba Buena)

Hank Willis Thomas works primarily with themes related to identity, history and popular culture. His work has been exhibited throughout the U.S. and abroad, and is included in numerous public collections. Thomas received a BFA in Photography and Africana studies from New York University and a MFA/MA in Photography and Visual Criticism from the California College of Arts.


Hank Willis Thomas
Hank WIllis Thomas 

James Turrell

  • Three Gems (Golden Gate Park) & Skygarden (Central Market)

For over half a century, James Turrell has worked directly with light and space to create artworks that engage viewers with the limits and wonder of human perception. The simple act of witnessing the sky from within a Turrell Skyspace, notably at dawn and dusk, reveals how we internally create the colors we see and thus, our perceived reality.

Leo Villareal

  • Buckyball (Exploratorium)

Leo Villareal is known internationally for his light sculptures and site-specific architectural works. His art is part of the permanent collections of prestigious museums including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum in Kagawa, Japan. Major site-specific works include Multiverse in the National Gallery of Art's Concourse in Washington D.C. and Hive for the Bleecker Lafayette Street subway station in Manhattan. Villareal is also one of three artists commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission to create public artwork in conjunction with the Moscone Expansion Project.

Yu-Wen Wu

  • Lantern Stories (Chinatown)

Yu-Wen Wu is an interdisciplinary artist living and working in Boston. Born in Taipei, Taiwan, Wu's subjectivity as an immigrant is central to her artwork. Arriving at an early age, her experiences have shaped her work, which examines issues of displacement, arrival, assimilation and the shape of identity in a new country. At the crossroads of art, science, politics and social issues, her wide range of projects include large-scale drawings, site-specific video installations, community-engaged practices, and public art.

Bruce Nauman

  • Life Death/Knows Doesn't Know (SFMOMA)

Bruce Nauman made his very first neon wall relief in 1966, which jumpstarted his life long career as a light artist. His pieces are oftem relatively unorthodox, and engage the complexity and absurdity of language by using bright lights that appear at first glance to be bright and festive. Throughout his career, Nauman has avoided engaging in a recognizable and characteristic style, and works to expose the multiplicity of meaning.

George Zisiadis and Gabriel Gold

  • Grace Light (Nob Hill)

George Zisiadis is a Berkeley-based artist and designer. Zisiadis’ artwork is driven by Sherrie Rabinowitz's idea that artists must create at the same scale which society has the capacity to destroy. Zisiadis’ work is conceptually driven, with each project involving different media and cross-disciplinary teams. Gabriel Gold is a San Francisco-based composer, multi-media artist and environmental advocate. His works have been shown at renowned institutions throughout the world, including San Francisco’s own de Young Museum and California Academy of Sciences.

James Turrell
James Turrell

Author Brenda Tucker
Brenda Tucker

Brenda Tucker is the Director of Arts Marketing at San Francisco Travel. She has lived in San Francisco since 1998, after driving cross-country to a home she secured sight unseen. Brenda enjoys swimming out-of-doors year-round, being inspired by the incredible art scene in the City, and living in the best place on earth.

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