When the New York Times ran a story in August claiming that the Bay Area’s art scene was suffering after the closure of two New York-based galleries in the region, it was comical how out of touch the report seemed to those on the ground here.
Local galleries and museums are not merely recovering from the closures and disruptions of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, they are thriving.
To remind Bay Area residents that San Francisco art institutions of that fact, anonymous donors underwrote a free museum weekend at the start of December that involved the participation of 21 organizations and drew thousands of visitors.
But perhaps most excitingly, a number of institutions have heeded the cultural calls for wider representation and increased diversity in the art world, starting new programs that reflect those priorities, including the Asian American Art Initiative at the Cantor Art Center at Stanford University and contemporary African art program at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
There have also been larger re-evaluations of missions and operating structures at area institutions, plus new directors taking the helms of several museums, that it feels like art organizations are less bound to the past as they plot their futures.
Here are a few other highlights from the Bay Area’s year in visual art.
ICA San Francisco opens
The opening of the new Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco in the Dogpatch neighborhood was one of the most anticipated art events of the year, and the reveal did not disappoint.
Its first show, “This Burning World” by New York-based artist Jeffrey Gibson, included immersive video art, a fallen tree installation and a soundtrack by traditional Indigenous song-carrier Joan Henry. As part of the show’s reimagining of the concept of land acknowledgments, Gibson, who is Cherokee and Choctaw, dug trenches into the concrete floor of the building, showing that almost anything is possible in the non-collecting institution’s future.