The City by the Bay always dazzles, especially during the holiday season when it is aglow with the annual Illuminate SF™ Festival of Light. Returning for its ninth year, the festival has grown from six eco-friendly light art exhibits at its launch in 2013 to 55 this year—with 41 of those permanent installations and most free to view.
Presented by San Francisco Travel Association in collaboration with local civic, arts, and cultural partners, the festival runs from Nov. 25, 2021 to Jan. 31, 2022. It celebrates the power of light with artworks by world-famous artists such as Jenny Holtzer, Joseph Kosuth, Leo Villareal, Hank Willis Thomas, Jim Campbell, Ivan Navarro, and Johanna Grawunder.
New this year in Golden Gate Park is Psychedelic Photosynthesis, a colorful illuminated moving projection on the Conservatory of Flowers that harkens back to the Summer of Love in San Francisco. Developed in partnership with the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, the joyous installation compliments the endless parade of rare and unusual flowers on display inside the conservatory.
Winter Lights by Joshua Hubert will debut on Dec. 2 in the woodlands of Golden Gate Park. Hundreds of individually controlled LED flood lights create dynamic patterns that are programmed to flow across a full acre of the park. The illuminated sculptures are located by the park’s 6th Avenue SkatePark.
Also new is de Truth, a blend of poems and poetic expressions running along the 450-foot-long façade of the de Young Museum. Created by the non-profit Illuminate, the light installation will change nightly and feature a variety of poets and people. Some nights will have visual light play without words. On Dec. 3, de Truth will honor the four San Francisco Poet Laureates who died during the COVID era: Diane di Prima, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jack Hirshman, and Janice Mirikitani.
Returning “bigger and more interactive” this year on Dec. 2 is Entwined, the enchanting art installation by Charles Gadeken. The popular exhibit will again transform Golden Gate Park’s Peacock meadow into a forest of otherworldly shapes and ever-changing light that allows visitors to explore twisting paths, sit under colorful trees, and admire nature-inspired sculptures that flower with light.
This year’s Illuminate SF Festival of Light highlights the city’s 41 permanent light artworks and 14 temporary light art installations within the city’s 49 square miles.
Detailed information on the festival and installations plus downloadable light art maps can be found at www.illuminatesf.com. Illuminate art installations are listed below by neighborhood.
In addition to the Illuminate SF Festival of Light, an inaugural Let’s Glow SF holiday projection mapping event will run Dec. 3 to 12. The activation is produced by Downtown SF, the community benefit district which serves the Financial District and Jackson Square, in partnership with A3 Visual.
Let’s Glow SF will be the largest holiday projecting mapping event in the U.S. The nightly journey of light and color will feature the works of local and international artists. Stunning whimsical, abstract, and naturalistic winter-themed images will be projected onto four iconic buildings in San Francisco’s Financial District.
Each show will be five minutes long and run every five minutes at the following locations: One Bush Plaza, 345 Montgomery St., Pacific Stock Exchange at 301 Pine St., and the Hyatt Regency at 5 Embarcadero Center.
2021-2022 Illuminate SF™ Festival of Light
· Bayview Rise by Haddad – Drugan (2014), Pier 92 at 3rd St. & Cargo Way (Permanent installation)
· Hope Will Never Be Silent by Illuminate (2017), Harvey Milk Plaza, Castro St. (Permanent installation)
· The Seed by Aphidoidea (2017), Jane Warner Plaza, at the intersection of Castro, 17th and Market streets (Permanent installation)
Civic Center & Hayes Valley
· W.F.T. by Joseph Kosuth (2019), Bill Graham Auditorium, 99 Grove St. (Permanent installation)
· Constellation* by Nayland W. Blake (1996), San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin St. (Permanent installation)
· Buckyball by Leo Villareal (2016), The Exploratorium, Pier 15 on the Embarcadero at Green St. (Permanent installation)
· GLOW: Discover the Art of Light, featuring eight artists, The Exploratorium, Pier 15 on the Embarcadero at Green St. (Admission fee)
· The Bay Lights by Leo Villareal (2013), San Francisco Bay Bridge West Span, Waterfront (Permanent installation)
Golden Gate Park
· Psychedelic Photosynthesis (2021), Conservatory of Flowers exterior, 101 John F. Kennedy Dr. (Debuts Dec. 2)
· Winter Lights byJoshua Hubert (2021), by the SkatePark, Kennedy Dr. and 6th Ave. (Debuts Dec. 2)
· de Truth by Illuminate, exterior of the de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr. (Dec. 1 to 31, 2021)
· Spreckels Temple of Music Bandshell by Illuminate (2020), on the Music Concourse (Permanent installation)
· SkyStar Wheel, the observation wheel installed for Golden Gate Park’s 150th celebration (2020), 1 Bowl Dr.
· Entwined by Charles Gadeken (2020), Peacock Meadow (Debuts Dec. 3, 2021)
· Three Gems by James Turrell (2005), de Young Museum, Barbro Osher Sculpture Garden, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr. (Permanent installation; admission fee)
· THE LADDER (Sun or Moon) by Ivan Navarro (2020),1066 Market St. (Permanent installation)
· "…and my room still rocks like a boat on the sea" (Caruso’s Dream) by Brian Goggin and Dorka Keehn (2015), 55 Ninth St., south of Market St. (Permanent installation)
· Ocean Mirror with Fragments by Jim Campbell (2007), Saunders Court, University of California San Francisco, 505 Parnassus Ave. (Permanent installation)
· Grace Light by Illuminate and Grace Cathedral, Grace Cathedral, 1100 California St. (Reservations required)
· Seeing Spheres by Olafur Eliasson (2019), Chase Center, 1 Warriors Way (Permanent installation)
· Spiral of Gratitude* by Shimon Attie and Vale Bruck (2015), 1245 Third St. (Permanent installation)
· Monarch by Cliff Garten (2015), Kaiser Permanente Medical Offices, 1600 Owens St. (Permanent installation)
· nima by Jim Sanborn (2006), Alexandria Real Estate Equities, 1700 Owens St. (Permanent installation)
· Language of the Birds* by Brian Goggin and Dorka Keehn (2008), Broadway and Columbus Ave. (Permanent installation)
· Archipelago* by Anna Valentina Murch (2014), San Francisco General Hospital, 1001 Potrero Ave. (Permanent installation)
· Ethereal Bodies* by Cliff Garten (2014), San Francisco General Hospital, 1001 Potrero Ave. (Permanent installation)
San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
Note: Only ticketed passengers arriving or departing SFO can view all the installations.
· Orion by Spencer Finch (2020), Terminal 1 (Permanent installation)
· Coding* by Johanna Grawunder (2019), Long Term Parking Garage (Permanent installation)
· Spirogyrate* by Eric Staller (2014), Terminal 3, Boarding Area E, Level 2, Post-Security (Permanent installation)
· Sky* by Merge Conceptual Design (2014), Terminal 3, Boarding Area E, Level 2, Post-Security (Permanent installation)
· Four Sculptural Light Reflectors* by James Carpenter (2000), International Terminal, Main Hall, Level 3, Pre-Security (Permanent installation)
· Light Beams for the Sky of a Transfer Corridor* by Vito Acconci (2000), International Terminal, A-G, Level 2, Pre-Security (Permanent installation)
· Wind Portal* by Ned Kahn (2000), International Terminal between BART Station and AirTrain (Permanent installation)
· Ceiling Flood* by Keith Sonnier (1999), International Terminal, Boarding Area G, Level 2, Post-Security (Permanent installation)
· IIuminavia by HYBYCOZO (2017), Hotel VIA, ground level space at Bar VIA, 136 King St. (Permanent installation)
South of Market (SOMA)/Yerba Buena
· Point Cloud by Leo Villareal (2019), Moscone Center, Howard between Third and Fourth streets (Permanent installation)
· Day for Night by Jim Campbell (2018), Top of Salesforce Tower, 415 Mission St. (Permanent installation)
· White Light by Jenny Holzer (2018), Salesforce Transit Center, 425 Mission St. (Permanent installation)
· LOVE OVER RULES by Hank Willis Thomas (2017), Annie Alley at Mission St. (Permanent installation)
· Lamp of the Covenant by Dave Lane (2015), Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St. (Permanent installation)
· Handsignals* by Matthew Passmore/MoreLab (2014), McCoppin at Valencia St. (Permanent installation)
· Lumina by MADLAB (2013), W San Francisco Hotel, 181 Third St. (Permanent installation)
· San Francisco at Night: Model Art Map by Lisa Gemmiti (2011), W San Francisco Hotel, 181 Third St. (Permanent installation)
· Yud by Daniel Libeskind (2008), Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St. (Permanent installation)
· PaRDes by Daniel Libeskind (2008), Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St. (Permanent installation)
· Skygarden by James Turrell (2007), Central Market, 90 Seventh St. facing Mission St. (Permanent installation)
· Untitled (in Honor of Leo at the 30th Anniversary of His Gallery) by Dan Flavin (1987), SFMOMA, 151 Third St. (Permanent installation; admission fee)
· “monument” for V Tatlin by Dan Flavin (1969), SFMOMA 5th Floor, 151 Third St. (Permanent installation)
*San Francisco’s Civic Art Collection encompasses more than 3,500 objects, including historic monuments, murals, paintings, sculptures, installations, and other media. The San Francisco Arts Commission oversees this rich and diverse collection, which helps distinguishes the city as an important cultural destination. To learn more visit www.sfartscommission.org.