Calling all San Francisco museum-goers! The city’s best museums are gearing up for another year of breathtaking exhibitions, and we can’t wait to see them for ourselves. Here are some of our favorites happening in 2023, some of which are already open and some of which are save-the-dates.
1. Kongkee: Warring States Cyberpunk
Open now through Jan. 23, 2023 at the Asian Art Museum
This exhibition has less than a month left in its run, but we couldn’t help including it! The one-of-a-kind showcase comes to us courtesy of animation director and visual artist Kongkee. Discover large-scale psychedelic projections, smaller animated screens, and ancient artifacts through Kongkee’s vibrant vision of a sci-fi future. It feels like you’re stepping into a dynamic, colorful comic book as you follow Kongkee’s reimagined android version of the great Chinese poet Qu Yuan.
2. Sargent and Spain
Opens Feb. 11, 2023 at the Legion of Honor
Escape to Spain with influential painter John Singer Sargent, who captured the country’s scenery over 7 visits between 1879 and 1912. Explore oil paintings, watercolors, and drawings of Spanish architecture and people; plus never-before-exhibited photographs from the time.
3. Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs
Open now through Feb. 12, 2023 at the de Young Museum
This unique installation explores the life and accomplishments of Egyptian ruler Ramses II, known today as Ramses the Great, one of the most remarkable rulers in world history. In addition to the physical objects from Ramses the Great’s life, the exhibit will use state-of-the-art multimedia displays and immersive VR experiences to demonstrate the opulence and power of ancient Egyptian civilization. Over 180 objects will be on display, many of which are newly discovered and had never previously left Egypt. This is a rare opportunity to see these ancient treasures in person.
Opens Feb. 18, 2023 at SFMOMA
Discover a series of sculptures from SFMOMA’s collection that explore the figure in a variety of forms, whether whole, fragmented, implied, individual, or collective. Many of the works stand on a human scale, creating a type of face-to-face interaction with the pieces.
Some memorable parts of the exhibition include totemic forms by Rose B. Simpson, which explore the artist’s Indigenous roots; and Soundsuit by Nick Cave, which serves to subvert biases by obscuring the wearer’s race, gender, and class.
5. Oz is for Oznowicz: A Puppet Family’s History
Open now through Mar. 5, 2023 at the Contemporary Jewish Museum
Learn about the family of Frank Oz, who was Muppet creator Jim Henson’s closest collaborator. Oz was the mastermind and performer behind favorite characters including Miss Piggy and Cookie Monster; as well as Yoda in the Star Wars films. His legacy as a puppeteer started with his parents, Mike and Frances Oznowicz, who escaped Nazi-occupied Belgium to eventually settle in Oakland, California. The couple became majorly influential in the puppetry community with their memorable marionettes, including a caricature of Adolf Hitler.
6. Beyond Bollywood: 2000 Years of Dance in Art
Opens Mar. 31, 2023 at the Asian Art Museum
Learn about the link between movement, life, and the spirit as told through 2,000 years’ worth of temple sculptures, paintings, and more. The exhibition takes audiences through artworks from South and Southeast Asia for a unique showcase covering everything from ancient Indian rituals to Bollywood.
7. Alexander Calder: Dissonant Harmony
Open now through May 2023 at SFMOMA
American sculptor Alexander Calder is famous for his whimsical and dynamic mobile sculptures. These colorful, large-scale mobiles are carefully composed and balanced, but always retain an essential thread of playfulness thanks to a series of gongs, buzzes, dings, and hums. Explore the sculptures from Calder’s collection dating back to the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s.
8. Ansel Adams in Our Time
Opens Apr. 8, 2023 at the de Young Museum
Peruse over 100 photographs by famed photographer Ansel Adams, which trace his artistic development with captures of Yosemite, SF, and the American Southwest. See his works in dialogue with others from before and after his time, including 19th-century photographers Carleton Watkins and Eadweard Muybridge, and contemporary artists Trevor Paglen, Will Wilson, and Catherine Opie. The dramatic captures of national parks and natural landscapes influence the viewer’s sense of urgency when it comes to preserving our environment.
9. Conversation Pieces
Open now through June 25, 2023 at SFMOMA
Explore contemporary cultural issues through furniture design at this one-of-a-kind SFMOMA exhibition showcasing over 40 pieces of furniture from the museum’s collection. The creative and often surprising works delve into topics such as social identity, environmental sustainability, and historical narrative. Some of the works include a hanging light of knitted electrical wire, a rocking chair made of 3-D recycled plastic, and a chair celebrating Black identity.
10. Ragnar Kjartansson: The Visitors, Again!
Open now through Jan. 2, 2024 at SFMOMA
If you’ve been in the Bay Area since before 2017, you might remember this SFMOMA exhibition by Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson. The Visitors debuted in 2012 as a 9-screen, 360° immersive audiovisual masterpiece and was soon topping lists like The Guardian’s 25 best artworks of the 21st century. It wowed crowds at SFMOMA’s 2017 exhibition Soundtracks and was an audience favorite at the museum for months. Lucky for us, The Visitors is back at SFMOMA all the way into 2024!
The Visitors features nine large video screens projecting Kjartansson and eight of his friends as they present an intimate musical composition. The result is an hour-long piece in a single take, presented from nine different musical perspectives that are both highly individualized and inextricably linked.