Public Art in San Francisco, CA

public art in San Francisco, CA
Cupid’s Span, an homage to the god of eros, is an example of public art in San Francisco.

Post contributed by Lisa Crovo Dion

The City by the Bay is known for world-class museums, but did you know that you can stumble upon amazing public art in San Francisco? These one-of-a-kind sculptures and art works are free to visit, incredibly diverse, and readily available to the discerning public eye. The following are seven public art pieces in San Francisco to start you on your road to discovery.

Public Utilities Commission Tower of San Francisco

Firefly, by Ned Kahn captures the power and beauty of wind on the side of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Tower at Polk Street and Golden Gate Avenue. This enormous work is powered using wind energy and one light bulb. Each day, thousands of polycarbonate panels appear to ripple like the sea, and illuminate at night.


Musicians and energy filled street performers surround the art of the Embarcadero but the most striking, and possibly controversial is the oversized Cupid’s Span at the foot of Folsom Street created by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen to evoke the myth of Eros. Watch out, you might just get pinged by that mischievous god of love.

Public Art in San Francisco, CA, photo of Time Signature
Time Signature by  is a public art piece in downtown San Francisco.

The Foundry Square

Richard Deutsch’s Time Signature sculpture can be found at Foundry Square, between four 10-story mid-rise buildings located at Howard and First Streets near the Transbay Transit Center. It’s a beautiful examination of balance, reminiscent of an oversized Jenga game. Inside Foundry Square you’ll find more sculptures beneath a vegetation wall.

555 Mission

Head to the sculpture gardens at 555 Mission where you can relax on comfortable benches and enjoy a two-for-one art experience. Human Structures by Jonathan Borofsky are enormous, colorful metal figures that tower above and the adjacent Moonrise trio of sculptures by Ugo Rondinone are by turns whimsical and spooky.

public artwork, San Francisco
Human Sculptures is one of two installations at 555 Mission St.

The Bay Bridge

The Bay Bridge is not just a feat of engineering marvel. It is also the largest LED sculpture in the world. Inspired by the Bay Bridge’s 75th Anniversary, artist Leo Villareal created a never repeating  display of 25,000 dazzling white lights across the western span of the Bay Bridge. The Bay Lights exhibit is a 1.8 mile-wide and 500-feet-high LED light sculpture that illuminates nightly from dusk til dawn. The Bay Bridge may also be seen from another angle, on the water, when taking San Francisco Bay Cruise Red and White Fleet.

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Another cool LED installation by local artist Charles Gadeken is found in Hayes Valley.  The  50-foot-tall tree-like sculpture is, according to the artist, “reimagined in a futuristic world post nature.” At night, the sculpture lights up in an array of patterns and color.

public artwork, San Francisco
Another LED installation showcasing public art in San Francisco is SQUARED in Hayes Valley.

Three Dancing Figures (Untitled)

Famed pop artist Keith Haring’s sculpture at 747 Howard Street has been outside the Moscone Center since 2001, following a Haring retrospective at SFMOMA. In 2012 it moved to the de Young Museum but it was returned to the Moscone Center at Howard and Third Streets in 2017.
public artwork, San Francisco
Moonrise is one of two installations located at 555 Mission Street.
This is just a preview of public art in San Francisco. There is much more to be discovered beyond the examples cited mostly in the downtown area, with new installations cropping up all the time. So if you prefer to view your art out of doors, there are plenty of free public art options all over San Francisco.

Photos by Lisa Crovo Dion