The San Diego Museum of Art

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1450 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92102
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Open:
10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (Mon., Tue., Thurs., Fri., Sat.)
12:00 - 5:00 p.m. Sunday
Closed Wednesday
At The San Diego Museum of Art, you’ll get your fill of culture and fine art as you view works from old world masters and contemporary artists alike.
The San Diego Museum of Art
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Explore Art and Culture at The San Diego Museum of Art

The San Diego Museum of Art is a treasured museum in the heart of Balboa Park in San Diego, California. It is a center for showcasing the cultural pursuits of historic and modern artists, encouraging the creation of new art, and providing the community with enriching outreach programs meant to celebrate the power of art.

The museum is one of the oldest art museums in the region. It began its life as The Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego all the way back in 1926, adopting its current name in 1978. The construction of the building took cues from the Panama-California International Exposition held in 1915, utilizing a Spanish Gothic and plateresque style that can still be seen in some areas of the museum.

The San Diego Museum of Art is constantly undergoing new renovations and additions. The museum doubled its original size in 1966 to add a west wing and a sculpture court, and another addition was made in 1974 to install an east wing and house more exhibits. More recent renovations include restoration and revamps to the auditorium, rotunda, and sculpture garden.

From its architecture to its collection of paintings, sculptures, and other artistic works, The San Diego Museum of Art has lived up to its mission of inspiring, educating, and cultivating creativity and curiosity through making fine art accessible to the public. With works by masters such as Matisse, Renoir, Rubens, Goya, and Frida Kahlo, this museum provides access to incredible art as well as ample enriching opportunities for visitors of all ages.

In addition to the many exhibits and outreach programs, this San Diego museum of art also has a restaurant and gift shop on site. Be sure to grab some lunch or bring home a great souvenir to remember your trip!

The museum’s café, Panama 66, offers casual dining with an emphasis on fresh, local ingredients and craft beer. It’s a popular location on Friday nights, where it hosts the Art After Hours event. The museum store is full of interesting and eclectic books, prints, and keepsakes to take home for yourself or give as gifts to friends or family.

Like many other attractions in Balboa Park, The San Diego Museum of Art is included in the Go San Diego Pass, which can help you save money during your trip. Buying a pass ahead of time gets you access to our additional exclusive discount on standard admission prices.

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What You’ll See

The galleries of The San Diego Museum of Art are full of many different mediums, styles, and eras of art. The majority of the pieces are traditional art, but there are plenty of sculptures, photos, and artifacts included in the well over 20,000 works of art hosted at the museum. There are pieces from well-known artists from as early as 5000 BC to as recent as 2012.

The museum also features contemporary art, often created by San Diego locals and other California residents. Their Summer Salon Series features a rotation of works from different modern artists as well as workshops and presentations about the art on display.

You can peruse the different galleries and exhibits in the museum at your own pace. Take time to really appreciate the artwork and the level of skill and effort that went into their creation as you walk through the museum.

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What activities does the Go Pass include?

There’s a variety of activities included with the Go San Diego Pass such as: The San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, LEGOLAND, SeaWorld, Hiking Tours, Whale Watching, Snorkel Rentals, Museum Tours, Speed Boat Adventures and more!

For the most popular attractions and water-sport rentals as well as the biggest discounts, consider the All-Inclusive Pass.

Art Installations and Exhibits

The San Diego Museum of Art contains both permanent installations and rotating exhibits. Some exhibits are annual events, such as the Art Alive event which occurs every year in April. During this fundraiser, artists replicate one of the works on display at the museum with flower petals and other organic material.

Art Alive is just one of the many different non-permanent exhibits at the museum. Check the official museum website for more information about rotating attractions, or check out the permanent attractions listed below.

Keep in mind that due to the large size of the collection, not every piece of art owned by the museum will be on display at the same time. Parts of the permanent collection may be rotated out to give other works time to shine. This means there’s always something new to see on repeat visits!

Visions of the West

The Visions of the West exhibits features artwork depicting the cowboys and settlers that populated the American West during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Artwork on display also features the natural landscapes and Native American culture captured by artists to keep this period of time alive. Together, these pieces tell the tale of the American West as it was perceived at the turn of the 20th century.

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At Home? No problem
Enjoy at-home art activities for emerging and established art students of all ages from the Museum Education team. Explore drawing exercises, crafts, writing prompts, videos, podcasts, and more inspired by The San Diego Museum of Art collections.

Visible Vaults

Any artwork that is not currently on display is stored in the vaults. The Visible Vaults exhibit gives visitors a window to peek into this storage, including the fragile and light-sensitive pieces that would otherwise not be on display. In particular, this exhibit houses many different Japanese woodblock prints, ceramics, and sculptures.

Modern and Contemporary Art

While much of the museum’s gallery was created hundreds or thousands of years ago, there are modern components too. In the Modern and Contemporary Art collection, you’ll see how modern painters break from many of the old art traditions and create works that are entirely new in their construction, tone, and purpose.

Renaissance to Realism

The Renaissance to Realism exhibit celebrates the beginning of the Baroque period during the 1600s. This period gave birth to naturalism, an art style that involves depicting things as they are seen in nature as opposed to more stylized modern art or idealized Renaissance depictions. The art on display includes landscapes, still life art, historical subjects, literature, and even pieces that realistically depict mythological stories.

Impressionism and Post-Impressionism

The impressionism period began in Paris, France in the early 1870s, but its aftershocks lasted until well into the 20th century. The Impressionism and Post-Impressionism exhibit showcases paintings during this time period as well as works inspired by the artistic era. Featured artists include Amadeo Modigliani, Pierre Bonnard, Edgar Degas, and Edouard Vuillard.

California Colorists

California Colorists explores the American Pop Art movement as well as artistic responses to Abstract Expressionism through a distinctly Californian lens. The exhibit takes Wayne Thiebaud’s iconic piece Caged Pie and showcases it alongside his contemporary Californian artists, many of whom adopted a similar style of painting everyday scenes with loose brushwork, strong lighting, and blue shadows to give their art a distinct look.

Art of the Open Air

Art of the Open Air is a showcase of sculptures in the Plaza de Panama sculpture garden. In the garden are sculptures made out of various materials and in all shapes and sizes. This exhibit is unique in that it is accessible outside of the museum, allowing the museum to provide free public access to these works.

Art After Hours

Art After Hours is an attraction that runs on Friday evenings. Guests are invited to tour the museum after closing time and enjoy the weekly showcase. Adult guests can order beer and cocktails at Panama 66, while they select from a menu of locally sourced food and experience live musical performances.

Though alcoholic beverages are served with ID, this event is open to all ages.

Culture and Cocktails

Culture and Cocktails is a 21+ only event and attraction. Enjoy a night of good drinks, great conversation, and amazing artwork, complete with a rotating featured art exhibit. These events include exciting music and dance performances, and catering by local businesses.

A Devotion to Educating and Inspiring Future Artists

The San Diego Museum of Art includes learning at the core of its mission, and it offers multiple opportunities to absorb and create. Throughout the year, this San Diego museum has a full calendar of films, lectures, workshops, music performances, and family activities. These activities vary every week, which means there’s always something new and exciting to take part in.

In the summer, camps for children and teens are in high demand. At summer camp and day camp lessons, kids will learn about different artistic periods and get the opportunity to create their own artwork. The museum also partners with educators to offer group tours and field trips for classes during the school year.

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Tips for a Successful Trip

To have the most fun and the least stress on your trip, check out these helpful insider tips.

Parking

The closest parking lot to the museum is in the Alcázar lot, which is just a five-minute walk away at 625 Pan American Road East. Alternative parking is available in lots throughout Balboa Park.

Photography and Videography

Visitors are welcome to commemorate their trips with non-flash photos, except for in designated areas with “No Photography Allowed” signs. Flash photography, filming videos, and reproducing or selling photos of museum exhibits for profit are all forbidden.

Gift Shop

The museum’s gift shop contains art books, jewelry, gifts, toys, decorative pieces, and much more. The Bibliotheque, the museum’s second gift shop, focuses on the cultural side and sells keepsakes themed around local culture, arts, and hobbies. The Bibliotheque is located right next to the museum in the May S. Marcy Sculpture Court.

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