Amongst the marquee US cities, San Francisco is a lot of things (best Asian food, most awe-inspiring views, strangest strange people) – but leading incubator of contemporary art has not necessarily seemed to be one of them.
Street artist The Apexer would surely beg to differ. One of SF’s most prolific muralists, he’s part of the city’s Mission-District-based Gestalt Collective, and his work has been included in group exhibitions at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Luggage Store Gallery and the Pacific Asia Museum (Pasadena). He’s also a featured artist on Loupe, the game-changing new art app that has made it possible to stream art anywhere that you can carry a screen (so, actually, everywhere.) It represents top level art talent from Atlanta to Berlin to Sao Paulo and everywhere in between, making their work accessible to anyone who simply downloads the app.
As part of an ongoing BlackBook/Loupe series, we asked The Apexer (real name: Ricardo Richey) to guide us through the some of his fave art scene spots in SF, from the galleries to the streets to those places where artists can usually be found hanging out with other artists and creative types.
“It’s constantly changing,” he observes, “just like the people moving in and out. It’s always nice to find places that hold their own character through it all, the kinds of places that transform your emotions and sense of space as soon as you walk in. There are a few of those gems hidden in plain site in the city.”
If you haven’t yet done it, you can download Loupe here. You’ll wonder how you ever did without it.
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art just reopened after a remodel that included an additional large building. It now has one of the most extensive modern and contemporary art collections in the world. The outdoor spaces are a highlight for me while at the museum, from living walls to forgotten corners. Make sure to keep a look out for “Where’s Waldo,” as you might find him hanging out on a roof or two.
This gallery is hidden behind a matte black storefront exterior in the Mission District, and once you enter you feel like you’ve just walked through a Willy Wonka trick door. The space is massive, with beautiful lighting from the skylights, and they have great shows from artists like Barry McGee and Ryan McGinley. The unexpected aspect of the location and the quality of the exhibits make this gallery a must visit.
This work of mine explores a lot of different ideas, such as geodes and compasses. In the piece you can see my classic crystal terminated points, as well as some gold rings. It is right on a busy intersection in the Mission District, and I wanted to give the public a moment of reflection – a moment to take a deep breath, look at the mountain in the background and see the juxtaposition of the houses and sky. To appreciate the beautiful area.
If you enjoy the outdoors and nature then you will love Andy Goldsworthy’s work. Wood Line is a group of cut trees placed on the floor of the forest in the Presidio Park; the trees create a long S-curve sculpture going down a gentle slope. This piece will take you out of the city without having to leave the city; as you walk along the sculpture you can smell and hear the forest in the wind. In the late afternoon the sun creates some amazing shadows.
This taqueria is a cornerstone of the Mission District. Locals have enjoyed the food here way before the TV shows found it and labeled it the best taco in America. When you go, make sure you get the crispy taco with the soft shell taco inside of it, and whatever you want inside of that. While you’re in this neighborhood, there are also a lot of different murals that are cool to check out.
This is a little walk up coffee shop in the SOMA District, in an old warehouse area. I recommend ordering the cortado, which is in between a macchiato and a cappuccino. There is an old loading dock across the street that people sit on to enjoy their coffee in the good weather. If you’re hungry there’s a soul food restaurant next door that has a walk up window as well. Just cool vibes all around this shop.
Classic square pizza in the North Beach District, with a walk up window and inside sit down area. The inside has stickers all over the place, from bands and artists. At night most people choose to use the window, and that becomes a scene of its own. If you go, I recommend getting a corner or side pizza, because it has more crust on it.
This is a great hidden bar in the heart of the touristville of Union Square, that you wouldn’t expect and probably couldn’t have found. The door looks like a service door for a restaurant that only has a small sign. You then walk up some stairs to find a perfect bar that can make some of the best drinks (and oysters) you’ve ever had. The vibes are good and it’s a breath of fresh air from Union Square.