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Forever accepting of weirdos, misfits, and outcasts, it comes as no surprise that San Francisco has historically had the best art scene on the West Coast. Perfecting movements like Abstract Expressionism, utilizing social movements to influence art, and drawing inspiration from Bay Area and free-thinkers like Allen Ginsburg and Alan Watts, San Franciscan artists have always been on the cutting edge. These days the landscape of the city is changing, but while it may be hard to live there on artist wages, there have never been more people able to buy art. We outline the best San Francisco art galleries.

By SF Camerawork Facebook

Pier 24 Photography

We don’t believe art galleries should be limited to paintings and sculpture. Photography is the defining art medium of our generation. And sure, everyone on Instagram considers themselves a photographer, but with the first step into Pier 24 Photography, it becomes clear that there is a difference between social media and art. Located a short walk from the San Francisco Ferry Building in the Embarcadero and under the Bay Bridge, there aren’t many better spots to contemplate art with a view. The gallery itself features both permanent and rotating exhibits of portrait, abstract, and landscape photography.

By Pier 24 /

San Francisco Art Exchange

Originally an exhibit that helped legitimize pin-up artist Alberto Vargas, the San Francisco Art Exchange now specializes in the art of pop culture. Most exhibits feature paintings and photographs of icons like The Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash, Marilyn Monroe, and Steve McQueen.

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49 Geary Art Galleries

Near to Union Square in Downtown San Francisco, 49 Geary is conveniently located close to many hotels often visited by tourists. There are many different exhibits on display, so visitors are exposed to a variety of art. One of 49 Geary’s most popular, singular galleries is the Fraenkel Gallery; founded by Jeffrey Fraenkel, they recently opened a second gallery space called FraenkelLAB on Market Street. Locals love 49 Geary First Thursday events, where, on the first Thursday of every month, galleries stay open late and serve wine.

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de Young Museum

While The M.H. de Young Memorial Museum is more museum than gallery, their individual gallery-style exhibits are some of the best in California. Along with the Legion of Honor, the de Young is one of the two fine arts museums in San Francisco. The Golden Gate Park museum currently features galleries from Monet and Gauguin.

San Francisco Women Artists Gallery

The physical manifestation of the San Francisco Women Artists group (which supports and expands the representation of female artists in the Bay Area), this gallery is a powerful concept. The galleries are in constant rotation and display the works of aspiring female artists.

By Ellie Christmas /

Berggruen Gallery

Featuring American and European works of art from the 20th century, the Berggruen Gallery on Hawthorne Street has made a reputation for stunning contemporary pieces. Located right around the corner from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, devote a full afternoon here to the art.

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By Thomas Eggerer /

SFMOMA Artists Gallery

While the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art officially sponsors this gallery, it’s located at Fort Mason, off their main premises downtown. Promoting the work of Northern Californian artists by renting and selling their artwork, the SFMOMA Artists Gallery is a non-profit organization. Proceeds are given to the artists or are used to maintain the gallery and museum.

SF Camerawork

Another non-profit, SF Camerawork aims to give a platform to amateur and/or emerging photographers. Open to displaying all types of techniques, SF Camerawork’s true soul is in promoting alternative or experimental styles of photography. Situated near the Civic Center and City Hall, entry is free.

By David Wakely /

Minnesota Street Project

The Minnesota Street Project is bigger than a singular gallery — instead, they view themselves as a mission. Aiming to save the contemporary art scene in San Francisco, the project provides spaces for galleries and artists hoping to work and exhibit their craft in an economically friendly or viable way. By supporting the art community with short-term workspaces, they believe their galleries will be celebrated worldwide for years to come. The project makes use of three warehouses in the Dogpatch district, two of which are open to the public. Overall, the Minnesota Street Project has 13 independent galleries owned by various curators and supporters of the arts.

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Hashimoto Contemporary

A relatively small space in Nob Hill, Hashimoto Contemporary is still able to create an impactful experience. In emphasizing contemporary art, Hashimoto does an amazing job of expanding the parameters of what is considered to be contemporary. Often much of the art featured has been created through the modern medium of digital and graphic art.

By Lizzie Gill /

Street Art

Who says art galleries need to be indoors? While graffiti and street art isn’t really available for purchase, many of San Francisco’s streets could be considered open-air galleries due to their bright, masterful murals.

San Francisco’s Mission District has a long, rich history of street art that began in the 70s. The neighborhood is said to have well over 500 murals, giving it one of the highest concentrations of street art anywhere in the world.

By Chris Barbalis / Unsplash

Two of the most popular places to view examples of these murals are alleys. Clarion Alley became a popular mural area in 1992 and since then, some 500 different artists have made political statements through their art. The graffiti of Balmy Alley also has a history of utilizing their platform to create artistic renderings of social justice movements. One of the original places for murals in the Mission in the 70s, the street art scene of Balmy was revolutionized by a number of gifted individuals. One group that made a big impact on the Mission District, and its largely Central American demographic, were the Mujeres Muralistas. Las Mujeres were originally a group of four Latina women, who used their street art to highlight the issues facing women and the Chicano community as a whole.

By Clarion Alley Facebook
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