Asian Art Museum of San Francisco

The most engaging museums, it seems, transport visitors to another time and place while staying rooted in the surrounding community. San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum does just that, offering visitors a glimpse of past and present as well as near and far. For almost half a century, the museum has been posing the following questions to visitors: what do you want to learn, and where do you want to go?

Given Asia’s vastness as a diverse region, it’s easy for visitors to let the art itself be their tour guides. A popular option is the self-guided tour, which accents the collections and, in addition to being accessible through six different languages, is also free of charge.

On this multimedia adventure, visitors can take in some of the nearly 18,000 pieces that make the Asian Art Museum one of the most thorough of its kind. Underscoring its comprehensive nature are the many different cultures whose works are featured: expected origins such as China and Japan, of course, but also the Philippines, Turkey and India, just to name a few. These varied yet often connected cultures are reflected in streets of San Francisco, as well as in the popular eatery Café Asia on museum grounds.

The cultural kaleidoscope continues through the museum’s special exhibits. Some of the most recent have featured Korean art from the Joseon dynasty and the evolution of yoga as seen through its imaged history. Events at the Asian Art Museum are no less panoramic and have included an art show specifically for youth, holiday-themed family art activities and a “Tour, Talk and Tea” discussion on art and architecture.

The facility opened its doors in 1966, thanks in large part to the beneficence of a Midwestern industrialist who donated many of the artifacts that still enchant visitors today. Reflecting this generosity is the museum’s own online catalog, where students or the curious can view roughly half of the museum’s extensive collection via the web.

For those who would like to bring home a little bit of their experience, the Asian Art Museum store offers jewelry, ceramics, furniture, books, paintings, sculpture and other media. All proceeds benefit the museum’s programs, exhibits and artists.

The Asian Art Museum is located at 200 Larkin Street in San Francisco, across from City Hall in the Civic Center district. The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10:00 – 5:00, and can be reached at (415) 581-3500.

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