San Francisco is home to some of the best public art in the country, and with hundreds of interesting sculptures to choose from, picking the best ones is an impossible task! Nonetheless we decided to take the challenge, and below is a diverse list of the most iconic sculptures in SF. Be sure to check out the map at the bottom so you can plan your next stroll through the city.
1. The Thinker
Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker (ca. 1880, cast ca.1904) is a world-famous sculpture depicting a nude male deep in thought, originally conceived as the poet Dante but later evolving to include all poets and creators. The Legion of Honor is home to 1 of about 28 existing bronze castings of the original sculpture.
Location: 100 34th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121
2. Yoda Fountain
Jedi Master Yoda found home atop a fountain outside of the Letterman Digital Arts Center in 2005. Since then he has graced this galaxy with his presence to the delight of Star Wars fans everywhere. Don’t forget to throw some coins in the fountain so that the Force may be with you.
Location: 1 Letterman Dr, San Francisco, CA 94129
3. Wave Organ
The Wave Organ, created by artists Peter Richards and George Gonzalez in 1986, is an acoustic sculpture activated by the waves of the San Francisco Bay. Its haunting music comes from 25 different organ pipes placed at different levels around the sculpture, changing with the rise and fall of the tides. Make sure you go at high tide to experience the Wave Organ at its best.
Location: 83 Marina Green Dr, San Francisco, CA 94123
4. Hearts in San Francisco
In 2004, Nancy Bechtle and Ellen Magin Newman started the Hearts in San Francisco project to benefit the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation. They commissioned Bay Area artists to create over 130 beautiful heart sculptures, many of which were auctioned off after spending a few months on display around the city. There are still dozens of heart sculptures in public locations, the most recognizable of which is Tony Bennett’s heart in Union Square, titled America’s Greatest City By The Bay.
Location: Interactive map of Hearts in SF
5. Venus statue
Lawrence Argent created this interpretation of the Venus de Milo in 2017 as a commission for the Piazza Angelo in the courtyard of Trinity Palace. At a whopping 92 feet, It’s San Francisco’s tallest sculpture. Piazza Angelo also features 18 other art elements, many of gods and goddesses encased in marble.
Location: 33 8th St, San Francisco, CA 94103, United States
Buckyball is a 25-foot soccer ball-shaped sculpture featuring 4,500 LED lights. It was developed by artist Leo Villareal in 2016 and inspired by the work of inventor Buckminster Fuller. The lights on Buckyball shift between over 16 million distinct colors in a variety of sequences. Find Buckyball at the Exploratorium after sunset to see it at its best.
Location: 89 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94111, United States
7. Wood Line
Andy Goldsworthy’s Wood Line is a peaceful, graceful sculpture that winds through the Presidio’s man-made eucalyptus grove. In the 1800s, the army planted eucalyptus and Monterey cypress here in the hopes of creating a beautiful canopy. The cypress eventually died out, but the eucalyptus remained, and in 2010 Goldsworthy placed his twisting, elegant sculpture in the gaps. While you’re there, don’t forget to see his other pieces, Spire (2008) and Tree Fall (2013).
Location: 718A Liggett Ave, San Francisco, CA 94129
8. Chinese Foo Dogs
These Chinese guardian lions (Chinese: 石獅 or shíshī), are known in English as foo dogs or lion dogs. In 1952, the San Francisco Arts Commission placed 2 foo dogs at Dragon Gate, marking the entrance to Chinatown. They are thought to provide protection from harmful spirits or beings.
Location: Dragon’s Gate, Bush St, Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94108, United States
9. The Seed
Art and design collective Aphidoidea created The Seed for Jane Warner Plaza in the Castro in 2017. It features 6 LED dandelions that are 13 feet tall, representing the power of a single wish to inspire a movement.
Location: Jane Warner Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94114, United States
Robert Barr created this stainless steel sculpture in 1985, dedicating it to longshoreman and philosopher Eric Hoffer. Skygate was the first piece of public art in the Embarcadero financed by a corporation, and it stands at 26 feet tall as a link between sea and sky.
Location: 1574-1636 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94133