In the News

Anonymous donors to make 21 S.F. museums admission-free

The Asian Art Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art have announced the creation of the San Francisco Free Museum Weekend, which will feature 21 organizations over the weekend of Dec. 3 and 4.

The two-day event is being underwritten by anonymous donors so that no participating institution will have to suffer a financial loss.

“The San Francisco Free Museum Weekend couldn’t come at a better time,” said Jay Xu, the director and CEO of the Asian Art Museum. “As we re-emerge from the challenges of the past months, Bay Area museums are here to help our communities reconnect with each other and with the artists that inspire them.”

On Dec. 3, the institutions that will waive admission costs include the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s de Young Museum and Legion of Honor; Cartoon Art Museum; Museum of Craft and Design; the Walt Disney Family Museum; California Academy of Sciences; GLBT Historical Society Museum; American Bookbinders Museum: Letterform Archive; SF Camerawork; McEvoy Foundation for the Arts: Truhlsen-Marmor Museum of the Eye; Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco and the Minnesota Street Project.

The next day, downtown museums with free admissions include the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Contemporary Jewish Museum; Museum of African Diaspora; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; Children’s Creativity Museum ; Asian Art Museum; and Exploratorium. Special exhibitions on view that will also be free for museumgoers include retrospectives of painters Diego Rivera and Joan Brown at SFMOMA and a celebration of painter Bernice Bing at the Asian Art Museum.

Participants must reserve tickets at

“In these economically challenging and politically divided times, museums provide a critical place of discourse, reflection and inspiration,” Thomas P. Campbell, director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, said in a statement. “Increasing access to art spaces and removing barriers to experiencing art is crucial.”

SFMOMA director Christopher Bedford called the initiative “a great testament to the vibrant, resilient and boundary-pushing arts community here” and told The Chronicle the museum is “grateful to join our peers in this communal celebration of the art, culture, and creativity that has long put San Francisco on the map.”

The free weekend comes as San Francisco’s visual arts scene has made several additions to its cultural cache, among them the opening of the new Institute of Contemporary Art in the Dogpatch neighborhood in October, the premiere of several major fall shows as well as the upcoming reveal of the Central Subway public art project.

It also comes at a time the city continues to deal with worldwide criticism about how it handles challenges of addiction, the unhoused on the streets and the overall slowdown in foot traffic downtown. In August, a New York Times article on the San Francisco art community said these issues had put the city’s museums and galleries into a decline.

San Francisco Free Museum Weekend organizers acknowledged “San Francisco is among the last American cities to show signs of recovery after the closures of the pandemic’s height” but added that they hope the event will mark “the reawakening and revitalization of a city that has long championed creativity, experimentation, and innovation.”