San Francisco is well known for its vibrant art scene—from murals to museums to public sculptures. However, adventurous San Franciscans or visitors can discover a whole new side to the city by exploring its extraordinary “light art” installations scattered around town.
The city boasts more than 40 light installations created by over 30 artists and installed in 17 neighborhoods. Here’s a list of six works you can check out in a nocturnal adventure. Check out our video to see what they look like.
Location: Embarcadero: Pier 15 at Mission Street
Created by Leo Villareal in 2012, this 25-foot sculpture features two nested geodesic domes comprised of 4,500 LED nodes. The light sequences are randomized and can form 16 million distinct colors.
Location: SoMa: Salesforce Transit Center
Located in the rotunda of the Salesforce Transit Center, these giant LED screens display words of more than 40 writers for varying lengths of time. The artwork was created by Jenny Holzer in 2018.
Location: Yerba Buena: 165 Jessie Street
Designed by the artist Hank Willis Thomas in 2017, this installation is a tribute to Thomas’ cousin, who was tragically murdered in 2000. The art flashes “LOVE OVER RULES” in various combinations, which was the last recorded message Thomas received from his late relative.
Location: 1066 Market Street
This ethereal 2020 piece by Ivan Navarro is emblematic of the artist’s use of everyday architectural elements in his creations.
Location: Civic Center: Bill Graham Auditorium
Covering the side of Bill Graham Auditorium, this installation depicts the etymologies of "civic" and "auditorium" in white neon. W.F.T. was created by Joseph Kosuth in 2019.
Location: Embarcadero: 415 Mission St.
DAY FOR NIGHT crowns the top of Salesforce Tower, and is visible from almost anywhere in San Francisco. Eleven thousand lights and video screens allow different visuals to be projected for the whole city to see.
Jesse Rogala can be reached at [email protected]