“Illuminate SF” Light Art Festival: All 62 of SF’s Holiday Light Installations Coming This Winter
Illuminate SF: Festival of Light is making The City a little brighter, November 9 – January 31, 2023 and shines a light on San Francisco’s ever-expanding light art scene.
San Francisco’s neighborhoods will transform into a luminous gallery of art at night during the holiday season for the 10th annual Illuminate SF™ Festival of Light. The self-guided tour begins and ends at 5M, a new mixed-use district in SOMA that has transformed four acres of parking lots and underutilized buildings into a vibrant community. 62 temporary and permanent light art installations, many within walking distance of one another, have been designed by acclaimed creators from all over the world.
Inspired by the debut of Leo Villareal’s The Bay Lights, San Francisco Travel launched the festival in 2013 to brighten the longest nights of the year. Illuminate SF has grown since its inception from six to 62 temporary and permanent eco-friendly light art installations created by a diverse array of acclaimed international and local artists, including Olafur Eliasson, Jenny Holzer, Daniel Libeskind, Jorge Pardo and Jerry van Eyck, along with San Francisco Bay-based Jim Campbell, Johanna Grawunder, Dorka Keehn and Brian Goggins.
Read more at Illuminate SF.
Illuminate SF light art installations can be experienced across the city from the Embarcadero to the Inner Sunset, North Beach to Bayview, and while flying in or out of San Francisco International Airport (SFO). The works come to life at dusk, turning evenings into an illuminating adventure, especially when combined with exploring San Francisco’s world-class restaurants, nightlife, cultural events and holiday activations.
List of 2022/2023 Illuminate SF Festival of Light Art Installations
- The Wind-Baffles by Jerry van Eyck (2022), The Parks at 5M, between Natoma and Minna streets. (Permanent installation)
- 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)
South of Market (SOMA)/Yerba Buena
- Peace in the Middle East by Taravat Talepasand (2022), Grand Lobby of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission St. (Permanent installation).
- 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; admission fee)
- Franchise Freedom by Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta of DRIFT (2023, San Francisco), presented by Immersive Arts Alliance, over the waters of the San Francisco Bay, Jan. 12 through 16, 2023.
- Let’s Glow SF (2022), produced by the Downtown SF Partnership with A3 Visual, the projection mapping event will animate four iconic buildings from Dec. 2 through 11. Locations and artists will be announced in late October.
- GLOW: Discover the Art of Light, featuring six artists – Anila Quayyum Agha, Craig Newswanger, Sally Weber, Luke Jerram, Burt Libe and Jen Lewin, The Exploratorium, Pier 15 on the Embarcadero, from Nov. 17 through Jan. 29, 2023. (Admission fee)
- IIuminavia by HYBYCOZO (2017), Hotel VIA, ground-level space at Bar VIA, 136 King St. (Permanent installation)
- Buckyball by Leo Villareal (2016), The Exploratorium, Pier 15 on the Embarcadero. (Permanent installation)
- The Bay Lights by Leo Villareal (2013), San Francisco Bay Bridge West Span, Waterfront. (Permanent installation)
Union Square/Nob Hill
- Lucy in the Sky* by Erwin Redl (2022), Union Square/Market Street subway station located on Stockton St. at Union Square. (Permanent installation)
- Grace Light by George Zisiadis (2019), produced by non-profit Illuminate and Grace Cathedral, Grace Cathedral, 1100 California St. Viewings through November 2022 and from January through April 2023. (Reservations required. Tickets for viewings will be released at 12 pm on the 15th of each month for the following month.)
- Lantern Stories: San Francisco by Yu-Wen Wu (2022), 600 block of Grant Avenue (Temporary installation).
- Language of the Birds* by Brian Goggin and Dorka Keehn (2008), Broadway and Columbus Ave. (Permanent installation)
- Helical Trace by Jim Campbell (2022), LUMA Hotel, corner of Third and Channel streets. (Permanent installation)
- 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)
- Bayview Rise by Haddad – Drugan (2014), Pier 92 at 3rd St. & Cargo Way (Permanent installation)
- Anima by Jim Sanborn (2006), Alexandria Real Estate Equities, 1700 Owens St. (Permanent installation)
- Untitled* by Jorge Pardo (2022), Geary Street Boarding platforms, Van Ness Rapid Transit Project.
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
Golden Gate Park/Inner Sunset
- Spreckels Temple of Music by Illuminate (2020), on the Music Concourse between the de Young and California Academy of Sciences. (Permanent installation)
- SkyStar Wheel, the observation wheel installed for Golden Gate Park’s 150th celebration (2020), 1 Bowl Dr.
- Psychedelic Photosynthesis (2021), Conservatory of Flowers exterior, 101 John F. Kennedy Dr.
- Entwined by Charles Gadeken (2020), Peacock Meadow
- Three Gems by James Turrell (2005), de Young Museum, Barbro Osher Sculpture Garden, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr. (Permanent installation; admission fee)
- Ocean Mirror with Fragments by Jim Campbell (2007), Saunders Court, University of California San Francisco, 505 Parnassus 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, Post-security (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)
*San Francisco’s Civic Art Collection is one of the largest and broadest public art collections in America. It encompasses more than 4,000 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.
Spectacular New Additions to the Illuminate SF Festival of Light
The Wind-Baffles: The iconic wind baffle structures that anchor The Parks at 5M, a new, vibrant community connected to the surrounding fabric of San Francisco’s SOMA District by a cohesive network of public spaces, are the brainchild of Jerry van Eyck, founder of !melk, an award-winning urban design and landscape architecture firm. Built to mitigate wind, the baffles or “wind breakers” are artfully illuminated from the outside and complemented with a soft glow that radiates through the perforations in the upper zones. Though made from steel, a material associated with heaviness and industry, the baffles are often referred to as “flowers” for their stem and leaf-like design elements. Come nightfall they transform into breathtaking sculptures and suddenly seem to float.
Helical Trace: A permanent installation inside the new LUMA Hotel in Mission Bay, Helical Trace is local artist Jim Campbell’s newest contribution to San Francisco’s Light Art Trail. The dynamic light installation can be seen from the street through the lobby’s floor-to-ceiling three-story windows. The prolific artist who installed Day for Night atop the Salesforce Tower created this striking installation that looks different from every angle and uses the reflection of the windows to amplify its movement. At a distance, the helix form gives the illusion of water across light. The figures within climb an infinite stretch of waterfall, allowing Campbell to create delight out of physical struggle.
Franchise Freedom: Immersive Arts Alliance will bring the acclaimed aerial light performance Franchise Freedom to San Francisco for five nights in January. Created by internationally renowned Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta of DRIFT, Franchise Freedom is comprised of 600 illuminated drones that will fly from Treasure Island over the San Francisco Bay towards the Embarcadero, allowing visibility along the shorelines in San Francisco, Sausalito, Emeryville and Berkeley. Based on a biological algorithm from over 10 years of research into starlings’ flight behavior, Franchise Freedom stretches boundaries between nature and technology and generates an impactful social connection.
Lucy in the Sky: One of two new light art installations joining the City’s extensive Civic Arts Collection, Erwin Redl’s Lucy in the Skyis a landmark artwork in the city’s new Central Subway (first opening for weekend service on Nov. 19). Located in the Union Square/Market Street Station, the immersive installation is comprised of over 500 translucent 10 x 10-inch light panels, each containing an array of color LEDs. The panels are suspended along the entire length of the concourse level’s ceiling, spanning nearly 670 feet. Installed in a diamond-shaped pattern, the light panels are computer programmed to slowly change color and display simple patterns, creating a kaleidoscopic experience.
Untitled: Along the Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit (VN-BRT) Geary Street Station’s north and southbound boarding platforms, Jorge Pardo’s lighting sculpture brings a pop of whimsical light and color. Comprised of painted steel, fiberglass, acrylic and LED light fixtures, Untitled is playful and sophisticated with engaging use of color, form, movement, space and light.
Peace in the Middle East: Taravat Talepasand’s Peace in the Middle Eastreturns as a permanent installation in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ Grand Lobby. Hung from the ceiling, this intricate neon artwork (featuring the word “peace” in Farsi “صلح”) explores the cultural taboos that reflect on gender and political authority through Talepasand’s lens as an Iranian-American woman.
Lantern Stories: San Francisco:This public art installation of 29 illustrated lanterns by award-winning interdisciplinary artist Yu-Wen Wu illuminates San Francisco Chinatown’s history, culture and community. Creating a luminous canopy on the 600 block of Grant Avenue, the lanterns relate the long and fraught history and legacy of Chinese immigration in the U.S. They feature images of Bruce Lee, Amy Tan, journalist Helen Zia, pioneer restaurateur Cecilia Chang and others. Many highlight the arts, calligraphy, music and performance, as well as the community’s strong commitment to education, entrepreneurship and social justice.
GLOW: Discover the Art of Light: The Exploratorium is bringing back its popular – GLOW: Discover the Art of Light from Nov. 17 through Jan. 29, 2023, with six artists illuminating Pier 15 with light sculptures big and small. In Gallery 3, Jen Lewin’s The Last Ocean is an expansive landscape of interactive platforms that illuminate to resemble a glowing ice field. Created from reclaimed ocean plastic, the platform’s five-sided pieces form a beautiful geometric tessellation — a repeating pattern of flat shapes with no gaps.
In the Black Box, Anila Quayyam Agha’s All the Flowers are For Me is inspired by Islamic textiles, architecture, and floral motifs. A single beacon of light glows from within a suspended steel cube, producing immersive patterns that ripple and change as visitors move through the space. Similarly, Agha’s Teardrop (after Robert Irwin) interweaves delicate, traditional Islamic decorative geometric patterns and architecture with modern materials. The work is inspired by jaalis (intricate, carved screens), which cast moving shadows as the sun rises and falls.
Entangled Attraction and Raylights, a pair of installations by Resonance Studio artists Sally Weber and Craig Newswanger, immerse visitors in trails of light in motion. Entangled Attraction features 100 pinpoints of light that appear to orbit around each other when viewed from afar, while Raylights produces ever-changing, mandala-like light patterns synchronized to ambient sounds.
Let’s Glow SF: Downtown San Francisco will again boast the largest holiday projecting mapping event in the U.S. with the return of Let’s Glow SF. Running Dec. 2 to 11, the nightly journey of light and color will feature stunning whimsical, abstract, and naturalistic winter-themed works by local and international artists projected onto four iconic buildings.
For detailed information on the #IlluminateSF festival, installations and artists, as well as downloadable light art maps, visit Illuminate SF.