Diego Rivera's mural, America, on view at SFMOMA
Diego Rivera's mural, America, is on display in SFMOMA. You don't need to purchase a ticket to see it.

What's New On San Francisco's Art Scene

From Diego Rivera’s America to Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs, from bugs to new museums, San Francisco’s art scene is flourishing.

JULY 2022

New Art Exhibitions

Diego Rivera’s America at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is the largest and most in-depth examination of Diego Rivera’s stunning works in 20 years and the first to examine his work thematically. On display through Jan 2, 2023, Diego Rivera’s America brings together more than 150 of Rivera’s paintings, frescoes and drawings—as well as three galleries devoted to large-scale film projections of highly influential murals he created in Mexico and the U.S. The exhibition spectacularly showcases Rivera’s art spanning from the 1920s through the 1940s, the richest years of Rivera’s prolific career. During these two key decades, Rivera created a new vision for North America, informed by his travels in Mexico and the U.S. Diego Rivera’s America builds on SFMOMA’s collection of over 70 works by Rivera, one of the largest in the world. It also features paintings, drawings and frescoes borrowed from public and private collections in Mexico, the U.S. and the U.K., reuniting many for the first time since the artist’s death. Iconic and much-loved works are shown alongside paintings that have not been seen publicly since leaving the artist’s studio.

The de Young museum is the exclusive West Coast venue for the international touring exhibition Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs. The show, which opens Aug. 20 and runs through Feb. 12, 2023, is the first new exhibition dedicated to Egyptian ruler Ramses II in 30 years and is the first to be presented in San Francisco. Once the exhibition completes its international tour, the objects – many newly discovered and having never left Egypt before – will return to Egyptian museums and will not likely travel again for decades. The exhibition features exquisite sculpture, precious treasures, and state-of-the-art multimedia production that will demonstrate the opulence and power of ancient Egyptian civilization.

The Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) will be the venue for the first West Coast presentation of The New Black Vanguard: Photography between Art and Fashion, an exhibition highlighting the work of 15 contemporary fashion photographers—from London to Lagos, New York to Johannesburg—whose images present radically new perspectives on the medium of photography and art, race and beauty, and gender and power. On view from Oct. 5 to March 5, 2023, the exhibition will occupy all of MoAD’s major galleries. Curated by renowned New York critic and curator Antwaun Sargent and organized by Aperture, New York, the exhibition includes over 100 select works by a groundbreaking international community of Black photographers whose work has been widely viewed in traditional lifestyle magazines from Vogue to Allure, numerous ad campaigns for Dior, Jimmy Choo, and other top brands, and within museums. The work breaks down long-established boundaries between art and fashion photography and celebrates the cross-pollination between art, fashion, and culture in constructing an image. The photographs are also a celebration of Black creativity and reflect the artists’ interest in supporting diversity in the industry.

Letterform Archive’s second exhibition in its new public gallery celebrates design that fights oppression. Strikethrough: Typographic Messages of Protest features more than 100 objects, including broadsides, buttons, signs, t-shirts, posters, and ephemera spanning the 1800s to today. Drawing from existing and newly acquired collections, Silas Munro of the design studio Polymode with Stephen Coles of Letterform Archive initiated the project on the upswell of the Black Lives Matter protests with a goal to showcase typographic anger and agency as it is seen in the streets, on the printed page, and even on the bodies of demonstrators. Featured artists include Emory Douglas, Favianna Rodriguez, Jenny Holzer, W.E.B Dubois, ACT UP, Amos Kennedy, Jr., Corita Kent, Atelier Populaire, Guerrilla Girls, Ben Shahn, and more. 

The new Bugs exhibition at the California Academy of Sciences, on display through Jan. 22, 2023, showcases the amazing adaptations bugs have developed over millions of years and across a multitude of environments. Bugs boasts ultra-detailed, larger-than-life models, video, hands-on activities, scientific specimens and immersive experiences that enable visitors to glimpse the world from a bug’s perspective, delight in their bizarre beauty, and reflect on what we can learn from their brilliant behaviors. 

Walt Disney’s The Jungle Book: Making a Masterpiece at the Walt Disney Family Museum runs through Jan. 8, 2023. Guest-curated by acclaimed animator and Disney Legend Andreas Deja, the original exhibition explores the creative complexities behind the making of The Jungle Book in 1967 and the film’s enduring popularity on its 55th anniversary. The exhibition encompasses the unique personalities of each character and their voice actor counterparts, the rich artwork and use of cutting-edge animation techniques, the memorable soundtrack of original songs by the Sherman Brothers and Terry Gilkyson, the impact of Walt’s passing during production, and the film’s enduring popularity and influence decades after its initial release.

On view until Oct. 30, is Iris Eichenberg: Where Words Fail at the Museum of Craft and Design. It is the first mid-career survey of the German artist whose work addresses relevant issues such as identity, gender, and Heimat—a German word denoting the personal happiness and inner peace found upon reaching a safe haven. The exhibition spans the artist’s career and includes new work, jewelry, objects, and installations. 

While nearly 40 thousand animals are on exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences, almost 46 million specimens are behind the scenes. The museum’s new exhibition, Hidden Wonders: Inside the Academy’s Collection offers a look into the Academy’s vast archive of objects from around the world and across eons. Nearly 800 fascinating specimens representing 11 of the Academy’s research collection disciplines are displayed in the newly created Pauline and Tom Tusher Collections Gallery, a custom-designed light- and climate-controlled space that opened in late May and provides the appropriate environmental conditions to safely display research specimens. Many are on view publicly for the first time.

Refuge Eye, a gallery in the front of the McSweeney’s building in the Mission District that showcases art by refugee and immigrant artists, presents Rihla ﺔﻠﺣر, an exhibition by Lara Aburamadan, a Palestinian multidisciplinary artist, journalist, and co-founder of Refugee Eye from Gaza City. Her self-portraiture invites viewers into her subconscious mind in a journey of introspection and self-discovery, exploring questions of gender, dreams, and imagination. It runs through Sept. 2. 

Haight Street Art Center will showcase a retrospective of artist Roger Dean's work, long known for his fantasy realism art and album covers for bands such as Yes and Asia. The exhibition opens on Aug. 25.

Oasis, the nightclub famous for its superstar drag shows and fabulous cabaret performances, unveiled a 2,500-square-foot wrap-around mural honoring the South of Market’s (SOMA) area’s history of drag and fetish culture in June. The mural titled Showtime includes portraits of late drag artists such as Bambi Lake and Felicia Flames and images associated with the queer nightlife community. It’s located at the corner of 11th Street and Burns Place (between Folsom and Howard streets). 

Museum News

Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco to Open Oct. 1

Opening on Oct. 1 in the former industrial Dogpatch neighborhood, the Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco (ICA SF) is a free, non-collecting contemporary art museum that prioritizes artists over art holdings, individuals over institutions, and equity and expansion of the canon. Its curatorial approach will spotlight and celebrate international and Bay Area artists. 

The 11,000 square-foot space will open with Jeffrey Gibson’s The Burning World, an immersive and excavatory site-specific installation and video work. Complementing the international debut of This Burning World, the ICA SF will present Resting our Eyes, a group show by guest co-curators and activists Tahirah Rasheed and Autumn Breon. Focusing on the liberation and celebration of Black women through the lens of leisure and physical adornment, the group show will feature new and existing works from 20 multi-generational Black artists working across sculpture, photography, painting and textile. Rounding out the suite of inaugural shows, the ICA SF has commissioned a new project from Oakland-based artists Elizabeth Hernández and Ryan Whelan entitled A Weed by Any Other Name. For the foyer project encompassing paintings and a mural, the artists consider the blackberry as a symbol of resilience, humble and wild, as a vehicle to invoke the unease, fragility and networked resistance of the artistic community in the Bay Area. 

New Museum on Angel Island

The Angel Island Immigration Museum (AIIM) opened at Angel Island State Park in January. While sometimes referred to as the “Ellis Island of the West,” Angel Island’s immigration station was built to enforce the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and similar immigration policies that sought to keep Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants from entering the nation. From 1910 to 1940, over 500,000 people from 80 different countries were processed or detained at the former U.S. Immigration Station at Angel Island. AIIM contains three permanent exhibits. The In The Shadows exhibit draws parallels between historical and current-day detention. The Under the Microscope exhibit highlights the building’s former use as a hospital. The Opening Doors exhibit focuses on the strengths and contributions of immigrants then and now. Entry is free. 

SF Fire Museum Reopens as First Responder Museum and Learning Center

After being closed for two years due to the pandemic, the free SF Fire Museum—now called the First Responder Museum and Learning Center—reopened in May with a new name and a broader dedication to all first responders. Founded in 1964, the museum was created to honor firefighters and the department’s history, which dates to the Gold Rush era. Tucked into the side of Fire Station 10 in Laurel Heights, the tiny museum hosts numerous antique artifacts, vintage photos, retired equipment and memorabilia from the early days of firefighting in San Francisco—and now some newer items from the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office, police department and emergency medical services. It’s open Thursday through Sunday. 

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