What are the best art galleries in San Francisco?

Answers from Our Experts (2)

Kimberley Lovato

In San Francisco, art imitates life imitates art. You need only browse the city’s varied neighborhoods to find hundreds of galleries that reflect our city’s love of art and appreciation for the eclectic. Whether you’re looking to deck your walls with the works of local emerging artists or you’d rather appreciate from afar, San Francisco has a place to peruse.

Fine art galleries began setting in around Union Square in the 1980s The Dolby Chadwick Gallery is a light and airy space at founded in 1997.  Here, you’ll find the works of established, mid-career, and emerging painters, photographers and sculptors, as well as museum quality prints. The Dolby Chadwick Gallery hosts ten exhibitions a year. Just down the street in the Crocker Galleria is the Art People Gallery (www.artpeople.net) Part exhibit space and part social networking tool, Art People brings clients and buyers together at several promotional events throughout the year. The onsite collection showcases a original paintings, sculptures, and photographs from local and international artists.

In San Francisco’s buzzy Mission neighborhood, CITY ART is the place to go to support local creatives. This cooperative gallery, owned and operated by almost 200 artists, brings affordable art to the local community. Check out one of their open receptions, held the first Friday of every month.  Similarly Art Explosion Studios and Gallery  is San Francisco's largest collective with studio space for 300 local artists to work and exhibit.

The SFMOMA Artists Gallery has an active exhibition calendar, eight per year, and represents Bay Area artists at all stages of their careers. Check out the ever-changing works at the Fort Mason location or the museum’s Caffé Museo.

Not to be missed is the fabulous new Ian Ross Gallery in SoMa. This local “live” artist and muralist has developed quite a following in the Bay Area over the years, so much so that Facebook (you've heard of them, right?) asked Ross, in 2011, to move in and be the company’s resident artist. Stop by his gallery and check out the massive outdoor mural on the exterior parking lot wall.  A few of Ross's other murals can be found around the city too, decorating buildings and walls.

Katie Sweeney

Walk around the streets near downtown San Francisco's Union Square and you'll stumble upon a wonderful collection of art galleries. If it happens to be the first Thursday of the month, you're in luck. That's when all of the galleries open their doors and invite the public in for a free evening of art, nibbles, and wine.

The first stop on your gallery crawl should be at Caldwell Snyder on Sutter Street. The 30 year old gallery features new exhibits monthly and specializes in a variety of 21st century paintings, sculpture, drawings, and prints. The curators at Caldwell Snyder are known for bringing in big name Latin American and European artists who wouldn't otherwise be found in the United States.

Walk down the street and around the block to Post and you'll come to The Dolby Chadwick, another superb gallery worth visiting. Founded by Lisa Dolby Chadwick in 1997, the gallery represents emerging and early career artists from all over the world. Exhibits include drawing, photography, print making, sculpture, and oil painting.

The last gallery that's not to be missed is the Fraenkel Gallery on Geary Street. Established in 1979, the Fraenkel focuses on photography and everything it encompasses from how the medium has evolved over time to its relation to other arts.

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