Guide to Visiting San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum
San Francisco's Asian Art Museum is known around the world for having an immense collection. The museum offers a look back at 6,000 years of Asian art, culture, and traditions.
The Permanent Collection
The Asian Art Museum holds an exquisite collection of art spanning thousands of years across the whole continent of Asia. The second and third floors feature 2,000 pieces from the museum’s main and rotating exhibits, giving visitors a chance to experience artworks from China, Japan, India, Korea, Cambodia, India, the Philippines, the Himalayas and other cultures in the Southeast, South and West Asia regions. Must-see pieces include a 3,000-year-old bronze rhinoceros-shaped vessel, the oldest known Chinese Buddha statue, a Korea Goryeo dynasty celadon pitcher with lid, a lacquer statue of Buddhist deity Simhavaktra Dakini, a statue from the 900s depicting Buddha triumphing over Mara, and a pair of 1,000-year-old Cambodian sculptures of Hindu deities Shiva and Parvati.
Exploring the Museum
The time it takes to view the museum depends on you, but a good rule of thumb is to allow 2.5-3 hours to tour the entire building. Museum staff recommend that visitors start in the permanent collection galleries on the third floor and then head down to collection galleries on the second floor. Visitors who’d like to view the special temporary exhibits first should go to the first-floor galleries, starting near the escalator in the South Court. Those with smartphones can download the Asian Art Museum by Cuseum app for a GPS-enabled, personalized tour of the museum’s masterpieces and architecture. The Asian Art Museum Multimedia Tour app, for iPhones and iPads, lets you learn about the museum ahead of time, and gives detailed gallery maps and specific information about featured artwork.
The Asian Art Museum’s Renovation and New Spaces
The 28,000 square feet of additional space and 63,000-square-foot renovation is expected to be complete in April of 2020. The new Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang Exhibition Pavilion gives the museum freedom and flexibility to create exhibitions that amplify technology and design, and more space to showcase large-scale contemporary artworks. Sitting atop the Pavilion is the new East West Bank Art Terrace, which boasts 7,300 square feet of outdoor space and will become the city's largest art terrace. The Terrace serves as an outdoor venue for contemporary sculptures, special live performances and a place to enjoy refreshments.
Thursday Nights at the Asian Art Museum returns for 2020, with extended hours until 9 p.m. Encounter an eclectic array of events designed to stimulate your mind and activate your soul. Watch special dance performances, taste local chefs' specialties, or enjoy live music and film screenings.
On the first Sunday of every month, the Museums hosts the Village Artist Corner. Located at the corner of Fulton and Larkin streets, the Village Artist Corner features rotating murals and special activities.
Visitors can also experience annual special events, such the Lunar New Year celebration.
Cafe Asia, located on the first floor of the museum, offers a fresh perspective on traditional Asian cuisine. Included on the menu are a variety of bento boxes, rice bowls, noodle soups, dim sum and sushi. Cafe Asia offers tea and milk tea by Boba Guys, both perfect pairings with any comfort food.
The Asian Art Museum Store is the perfect place to find a souvenir. Visitors can browse the museum store for an array of handcrafted items sourced directly from across Asia, such as ceramics, basketry, textiles, jewelry, paintings, wood-blocked prints, sculpture and more. From time-to-time, visitors will also find a few surprises popping up in the store (hint: it’s huggable and plush).
Planning your Visit
While there are public parking garages near Asian Art Museum, we highly recommend taking public transportation.
BART/Muni: Exit at the Civic Center Station
Parking: There are two parking garages within one block of the museum: Civic Center Garage (355 McAllister St.) and UC Hastings Parking Garage (376 Larkin St.). Limited metered street parking is also available near the museum.
Bicycle parking: Bicycle racks are located next to the museum entrance and on McAllister (between Larkin and Hyde Streets).
Tuesdays-Sundays.: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Thursdays: 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. (through Sep. 24, 2020)
Special Exhibitions & General Admission
Seniors (65+): $20
College students (with ID): $20
Children (12 & under): Free
Seniors (65+): $10
College Students (with ID): $10
Youths (13-17): $10
Children (12 & under): Free
The Asian Art Museum is welcoming to all visitors, including those with special needs. Trained service/therapy animals are allowed, and wheelchairs and folding stools are available at Coat Check. The museum offers assisted listening devices and ASL interpreters for some tours and public programs, but you need to contact the ADA Coordinator (415-581-3598) at least two weeks before your visit. Those with visual impairments may want to ask for a large-print floor plan, magnifier or Talking Signs receiver from the Information Desk.