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This Self-Guided Tour Takes You Through 11 Glowing Light Art Installations In SF

By Jamie Ferrell

This Self-Guided Tour Takes You Through 11 Glowing Light Art Installations In SF

The Bay Bridge’s dazzling lights are just the beginning!

San Francisco is absolutely stunning day and night, but some truly incredible art lights up as soon as the sun goes down. SF Travel put together a great map marking 11 of the best light art installations in the city, reaching from the Bay Bridge to the Castro. It will take a few hours to get through the whole thing on foot, but it’s not a bad bike or car ride if you want to hit all 11 stops in one night. You can also scoot around fairly well on public transportation. Many of these public installations are placed by Illuminate. You can also learn about them at Illuminate SF, which puts on the annual Festival of Light.

Via SFTravel

Here’s what you can expect to see at each of the 11 stops: 

1. The Bay Lights

Photo by Shashank Hegde on Unsplash

Artist: Leo Villareal

Location: Bay Bridge (best viewed from Embarcadero)

The Bay Lights are an iconic part of SF’s nighttime skyline, consisting of 25,000 white LED lights. The lights surge and flicker in glimmering patterns across the 1.8-mile-long bridge.

2. Glow Buckyball

Artist: Leo Villareal

Location: Embarcadero Pier 15 at Mission Street

SF Travel’s map still names the previous installation that stood at this location, but now you’ll find Buckyball outside of the Exploratorium. It’s a 25-foot soccer ball-shaped sculpture featuring 4,500 LED lights, inspired by the work of inventor Buckminster Fuller. The lights on Buckyball shift between over 16 million distinct colors in a variety of sequences. You can also see the Bay Bridge lights from here.

3. White Light

Artist: Jenny Holzer

Location: Grand Hall of Salesforce Transit Center, 425 Mission St

Salesforce Transit Center is already a memorable destination because of the beautiful Salesforce Park, but you can check out this noteworthy installation on your ride up the escalators. A 182-foot-long LED screen flashes quotes from over 40 writers including Maya Angelou, Harvey Milk, and more. You can see this indoor installation during the day as well.

4. Day for Night

Artist: Jim Campbell

Location: Salesforce Tower, 415 Mission St. 

The top of Salesforce Tower is covered with 11,000 lights and video screens, displaying imagery from a variety of artists in honor of holidays, significant news events, and more. This is the tallest public art installation in the United States, and is viewable at night from just about anywhere in the city.

5. Love Over Rules

Artist: Hank Willis Thomas

Location: 165 Jessie St

Giant six-foot letters blink in different sequences, spurring different interpretations of the message as “LOVE OVER RULES” or “LOVE OVERRULES.” Find it high up on the Salma Family Building in Yerba Buena. Best viewed at night, but you can see it lit up during the day too.

6. Point Cloud

Artist: Leo Villareal

Location: Pedestrian Bridge over Howard St at Moscone Center

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858 steel rods covered in 28,288 LED lights are suspended from the ceiling of this pedestrian bridge. The colors change 30 times per second into various hues, creating a glimmering, immersive experience. Best viewed at nighttime.

7. The Ladder

Artist: Ivan Navarro

Location: 1066 Market Street

The Ladder (Sun or Moon) is a newly permanent fixture on Market Street that reminds us to look for conceptual beauty all around us. The glowing white ladder climbs all the way up the side of 1066 Market. It’s best viewed at nighttime.

8. Skygarden

Artist: James Turrell 

Location: 90 Seventh Street at Mission Street

This neon installation appears as a glowing block set into the San Francisco Federal Building. The large 3-story opening in the building’s facade is flooded with neon light after dusk, with a ribbon of neon extending up towards the top. See it lit up from dusk till 10pm. You can also go into the building by showing an American ID or international passport, and taking the elevator to the 12th floor.

9. W.F.T.

Artist: Joseph Kosuth

Location: Bill Graham Auditorium, 99 Grove St

This glowing installation on the side of the Bill Graham Auditorium depicts the “Word Family Tree” (WFT) or etymology of the words “civic” and “auditorium.” Best viewed after dusk.

10. Tara Mechani

Artist: Dana Albany

Location: Patricia’s Green, Fell St x Octavia Blvd

This amazing sculpture in Hayes Valley is 17 feet high and made from 80% recycled materials. After dusk, she glows from within, representing her “heart and soul.” She is inspired by the robot Maria from the film Metropolis and the ancient female Buddha, Tara.

11. Hope Will Never Be Silent

Conceived by Ben Davis

Location: Soul Cycle building, Harvey Milk Plaza, 400 Castro St

Harvey Milk’s famous words, “Hope will never be silent,” glimmer high above Harvey Milk Plaza on the facade of what is now a Soul Cycle. The building itself is a fixture of the plaza, sporting rainbow flags around the neon words.

If you’re looking to see more light art, here’s a map showing all of the Illuminate SFTM light art installations around the city! 


Featured image: @chrismlindenphoto via Instagram