Light art is an integral part of San Francisco. This year, we're shining brighter with new additions along with the old favorites you love.

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November 30, 2020
Photo credit: by Ethan Kaplan Photography

Why San Francisco is an Awesome City for Light Art

You may not be familiar with light art, but San Francisco aims to change that. It’s an original art form that exploits light, colors and shadows. San Francisco is proudly represented by the now permanent, 1.8 miles of LED lights that span the Bay Bridge between San Francisco and Treasure Island. The Bay Lights aside, San Francisco also has one of the most extensive collections of permanent light art in the country. Known for innovation and technology, along with a staunch commitment to public art, light art in the center of a tech town makes a whole lot of sense.

Experience Illuminate SF Festival of Light, Thanksgiving through Jan. 23, 2021

Winter nights are long, giving residents and visitors a perfect opportunity to explore this dramatic blend of technology and art. If you haven’t seen light art before, this is the perfect opportunity. You’ll be fascinated by art that is poetry in motion.

San Francisco celebrates this unique art form with an annual festival that runs from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day and shines a light on dozens of dramatic, eco-friendly light art installations as soon as the sun goes down. Since most installations are free for everyone to see, you can bring the entire family along.

Here’s a sneak peek of what you can see in 2020.

"The Ladder (Sun or Moon)"

Prolific artist Ivan Navarro has created a beautiful piece of light art that you can see at 1066 Market Street. His creative eye has transformed an everyday fixture of urban architecture into a bright, delightful, and subversive work that will have you looking for all the everyday art around you.

"Orion"

You won't need a telescope to observe this constellation. You won't even need to be outside! Artist Spencer Finch has created a work that is not only striking, but scientifically accurate. Stand beneath "Orion" in SFO's Terminal 1 and you'll truly feel like you're traveling among the stars.

"Entwined"

Like something out of a video game, "Entwined" is a creation by Charles Gadeken that will have you seeing the natural world in pixels. Trees, bushes, and sprawling canopies—made entirely of LED lights—create an otherworldly ambiance in Golden Gate Park's Peacock Meadow.

Observation Wheel

In honor of Golden Gate Park's 150th anniversary, SkyStar has constructed this illuminated, 150-foot-tall observation wheel. Visitors can ride all the way to the top for breathtaking views of the park, the city, and even the Pacific Ocean. Temporarily closed.

"Bandshell"

The Illuminate crew has taken a staple of Golden Gate Park and given it new life. The Spreckles Temple of Music Bandshell, so often overlooked in favor of its neighboring attractions (the California Academy of Sciences and the de Young Museum), is now a visitor draw in its own right after dark.

"W.F.T."

"W.F.T." is an installation that presents the etymology of "civic" and "auditiorium", in light of the building it lives on, Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. Joseph Kosuth's artwork represents the historical significance of the Auditorium while demonstrating how the meanings of words are all interconnected to cultural and social realities.

"Tara Mechani"

Bask in this mesmerizing 17-foot-high sculpture that combines the ancient female Buddha, Tara, with characteristics of a future female robot. Dana Albany's sculpture is comprised of 80% recycled materials, including machine parts, hardware, chandeliers, and repurposed brass light fixtures. See Tara Mechani at Patricia's Green in Hayes Valley.

"Coding"

At SFO Airport's Long-Term Parking Garage, you can see their newest light art installation that has transformed the parking structure's elevator tower into a dynamic focal point. Luminous ceilings and undercarriages change colors over 24 hours, making elevator rides an entire experience. "Coding" by Johanna Grawunder can be seen day and night.

"Seeing Spheres"

Olafur Eliasson's largest public artwork in the U.S. consists of five fifteen-and-a-half-foot-tall steel spheres that stand in a circle around a central space. Each sphere has a mirrored face framed by a ring of LED lights, producing a never-ending reflection. See these illuminated spheres on Chase Center's plaza in front of the East Entrance.

Make Plans to Attend the Illuminate San Francisco Festival of Light

For more information on the Festival and installations viewable all year long, visit IlluminateSF.com.

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