If you are yearning to travel to Asia but don't have the time or the money, try the next best thing, San Francisco's Asian Art Museum, where the price of admission is all that is needed to experience the enchanting cultures of Asia. Possessing the largest collection of Asian art and artifacts outside of Asia, the Asian Art Museum will whisk you away you to distant lands, and all you need to do is travel downtown.
Sitting across from City Hall, the imposing, column clad Beaux-Arts building that houses the museum was originally the Main City Library. A '90s initiative to spruce up Civic Center saw the library move across the street to a new building while the old location was revamped and adapted to hold the burgeoning Asian Art collection that had outgrown its wing at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. Since 2003, the museum's new home at Civic Center has complemented the collection and impressed visitors.
The astounding collection is comprised of over 17,000 objects, artifacts, and artistic pieces that span roughly 6,000 years of Asian cultural history. Chinese, Japanese, and Korean traditions are well represented and impressive, especially the intricate Chinese jade carvings and the bucolic Japanese scroll paintings. But it is the galleries devoted to the four smaller regions – the Persian World and West Asia, Southeast Asia, the Himalayas and the Tibetan Buddhist World, and South Asia – that mystify and amaze. Gruesome avatars peer from their perch on the wall and dancing deities perform on their pedestals. It might be hard to pick one favorite gallery or tradition, but it's easy to recognize the remarkable beauty waiting for you in every new gallery.
One of the more splendid things about the museum, aside from the collection, is the flow. Escalators take you up three floors where your Asian experience begins and you wind effortlessly down through eons of art and artifacts that naturally segue from one tradition to the next. Of course, you can start anywhere and skip anything you like, but for the grandest of tours, the comprehensive Asian epic is recommended.
- Tuesday through Sunday: 10am to 5pm
- Thursday (February through September): 10am to 9pm
- Monday: Closed
- Adults: $12
- Seniors (65+): $8
- Youths (13-17): $7
- College Students with ID: $7
- Children (12 and under): Free
- The first Sunday of every month: Free
- Muni Stop:
- Civic Center for all trains.
- 47 and 49 busses stop on Van Ness.
- 5,6, 21, and 71 busses stop on Market.
- Location: 200 Larkin St. San Francisco, CA
- Phone: 415-581-3500
- Website: www.asianart.org