San Francisco is a place filled with color, vibrancy, and a whole array of outdoor public art that lights up the city—sometimes literally, in the case of sculptures like Firefly and The Bay Lights. There are more pieces around town than we could possibly fit into one map, so we've curated a collection of 29 public art pieces that includes everything from very well-known and controversial pieces (hello, Cupid's Span) down to a sculpture near an Outer Richmond bus stop commemorating the former beachside amusement park Playland. The city has such an extraordinary collection of murals that they deserve their own map, so we steered clear of them here, with the exception of a Banksy drawing and the impossible-to-miss 187-foot illuminated mural Bayview Rise. Did we leave out one of your favorites? In the comments, please, after the jump!Read More
Mapping 29 Pieces of Public Art Across San Francisco
Environmental artist Ned Kahn created Firefly, a 12-story kinetic sculpture, to mimic fireflies, which are a threatened species. The sculpture moves with the wind, triggering a series of lights at night.
The title is a scientific term explaining the life cycle of insects, but the sculpture is reminiscent of artist Joyce Hsu's summer memories. She hopes children at Argonne Playground, where the sculpture is installed, will share her fascination with dragonflies.
Artist Mark di Suvero gained fame in San Francisco with an exhibit of his sculptures on Crissy Field over the past year. This, however, is his permanent SF work, built in 1978. It's built out of steel and weighs ten tons and sits at the port where di Suvero first entered the US from China as a child.
This 2.7-mile trail loop, by artists Susan Schwartzenberg and Peter Richards (with stonemason George Gonzalez), encourages contemplation along park trails via fourteen "musing stations" that highlight the area's history, ecology and geography.
Love it or hate it, chances are that you know the famous Cupid's Span sculpture along the Embarcadero. It was created by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen to to evoke the myth of Eros.
This 40-foot-high fountain is made out of precast concrete square tubes. It has been controversial, with many attempts made to remove it. Bono famously spray-painted graffiti on the fountain during a 1987 U2 concert.
Playland Revisited, by Ray Beldner, recalls the former beachside amusement park with iconic symbols such as cable cars, a clown face, and this silhouette of "Laughing Sal," who used to stand at the entrance to Playland.
Artist Vicki Saulls' sculptural mural of casts of 23 swimmers' faces is set into a section of North Beach Pool's tiled wall. All of the swimmers are from the community and all wear goggles and caps.
A big trio of funny-looking heads created by Ugo Rondinone stands in contrast to the glassy corporate building on site.
Andy Goldsworthy's Spire rises nearly 100 feet above the Presidio, near Arguello Gate. The artist made it from 38 cypress trees that had reached the end of their life cycle.
Wood Line by Andy Goldsworthy
Andy Goldsworthy's second Presidio sculpture is Wood Line, which is near Lovers' Lane, the Presidio's oldest footpath. His lines made of wood "draw the place."
At the San Francisco Zoo, an interactive sculpture by Barbara McCarren and Jud Fine encourages visitors to reflect on the importance of habitat and the interdependence of species. Its many elements include a "Zoetta Stone" and a marble map of Pangaea.
These kaleidoscopic lookouts on Octavia Boulevard by artist Po Shu Wang came with the revitalization of the area after the Central Freeway was torn down. The telescopes of the installation change a user's view of the surrounding neighborhood.
The Bay Lights
In 2013 the Bay Bridge lit up with a 1.8-mile-long light sculpture by Leo Villareal. There are 25,000 individual white LEDs in the work, which lights up in patterns inspired by the weather, tides, and traffic volume.
Where the Land Meets the Sea
Maya Lin's first San Francisco sculpture shows the topography between Angel Island and the Golden Gate Bridge in stainless steel tubing. It was meant to get people to think about what's under the water in a new way.
The Flaming Lotus Girls' Soma was just installed this year at Pier 14. The sculpture was originally created for Burning Man in 2009 and refers to the cell body of a neuron, not the San Francisco neighborhood.
Bliss Dance, by Marco Cochrane, is a 40-foot-tall welded-steel sculpture on Treasure Island's shoreline.
Bird Singing in a Tree
Banksy has several pieces around San Francisco, but this one is our favorite. When it was created in 2010, it was alone on the wall, but has since been joined by other artworks.
Richard Serra's Ballast is made up of two steel plates that are 50 feet high by 15 feet wide and sits on UCSF's Mission Bay campus. The plates remind Serra of growing up in the Outer Sunset.
Movement: The First 100 Years
Known as the Korean Monument, this bronze sculpture was restored and moved in 2011. It has an identical sister sculpture located in Inchon, South Korea, and symbolizes the bond between the two countries.
San Francisco Fountain
Ruth Asawa's beloved fountain, which features relief scenes of San Francisco, was at the center of controversy last year when a new Apple store nearly buried it. But plans were revised and the fountain will remain.
Large Four Piece Reclining Figure
Henry Moore's curved sculpture is an abstraction of the human figure. There are seven casts of it around the world. This one was purchased for $400,000 in 1980.
Language of the Birds
These illuminated books appear to be taking flight over Chinatown. Words and phrases from the books are embedded in the plaza, recognizing the area's literary history. Artist Brian Goggin is probably best known for Defenestration, the flying-furniture sculpture that came down earlier this year.
The Moscone Center has an array of public art, but Facsimile is one of the most lively pieces. It's a 15-by-25-foot LED screen on the building's skin that shows live images of interior and of the city skyline (as shot from the roof), along with prerecorded images.
One Maritime Plaza, set in a rooftop garden, is filled with a variety of public art, including this sculpture by Charles Perry. The figure is made up of spirals that create an icosahedron shape.
As part of the Leland Avenue Streetscape Improvement project, these overgrown parking meters created by Rebar invite viewers to think about a future where obsolete parts of automobile culture can be reused as art.
Valencia Street Post Pole
Michael Arcega's street posts have Victorian-inspired crowns with "Valencia Street Public Post" carved on top. The posts are meant to house community bulletin boards in their midsections.
This mural on the side of a grain elevator and silos snags a spot on the list thanks to its prominence in the south side of the city. It is a symbol of the transformation of Bayview-Hunters Point.
Skygate was built in 1985 as San Francisco's first piece of public art funded by a corporation. It is dedicated to the memory of Eric Hoffer, a longshoreman, poet, and philosopher.