San Diego Art Gallery Guide

San Diego Art Gallery Guide

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Explore California's thriving art scene with our handpicked guide to the best contemporary art galleries and museums in San Diego.

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    Visitors at Lux actually see artists at work, thus gaining insight into the behind-the-scenes of visual arts – a simple yet revelatory concept. Of course, once finished, the artworks created become part of the institute’s collection and remain available to the enjoyment of the public. Worthy of note is also Lux Art Institute’s beautiful venue, a modernist building in the coastal neighbourhood of Encinitas, immersed in nature and overlooking the San Elijo Lagoon.
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    The gallery’s roster is not huge, but it includes a number of exciting new talents. One of them is Andrew Salgado, recently named ‘one of 12 to invest in today’ by the renowned London-based Saatchi Gallery, and who gained quite some attention with his amazing, large-scale, figurative portraits; and Joshua Dildine, mostly known for his intriguing series of photographs covered with colourful brushstrokes.
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    The museum’s collection amounts to 7,000 photographs by 850 different photographers. These include celebrated giants such as Alfred Stieglitz, the man who guided photography in its transition to the modern era, and Margaret Bourke-White, the first photojournalist ever to be granted entry into the USSR in 1930, and the author of the cover image that appeared on the first issue of Life.
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    Impressed by the quality and amount of San Diego’s contemporary artists, but deeming the number of art venues and spaces in the city as insufficient to receive them all, in 2011 Joshua Pavlick – an artist himself – decided to step up and do something for his fellow creatives: he dramatically reduced the living space in his downtown loft and transformed the rest into an exhibition space. 
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    Thumbprint Gallery is a unique space in San Diego, as it features all forms of lowbrow art, including street art, graffiti, murals and illustrations, all of which are proudly celebrated. The gallery was founded in 2009 in La Jolla, and presents a programme of month-long exhibitions; moreover, each month, their art is brought to downtown San Diego for a night show at Bar Basic.
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    Mingei International is unlike any other museum or art gallery in San Diego and, probably, the whole world. Uninterested in displaying historical artworks by the masters, Mingei’s mission is rather to celebrate the art of the people (in Japanese, mingei means ‘everybody’s art’) from any culture, and made at any point in history. At the museum, visitors will be able to view more than 26,000 artefacts produced by non-artists. 
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    Considered one of the world’s ‘great small’ museums, the Timken Museum of Art hosts a permanent display of Anne and Amy Putnam’s collection. The two sisters, who had an undying love for fine arts, put together quite a selection of European and American paintings in the early 20th century. The museum’s holdings include works from the Italian Renaissance, by American painters active throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, a unique collection of Russian icons and beautiful French tapestries. 
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    Those who want to feel the pulse of San Diego’s local contemporary art scene should put Space 4 Art on their map. Located in the city’s East Village, Space 4 Art is a group of three former warehouses, which are now home to 32 artist studios and five live/work studios for artist residencies. 
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    Visitors can see over 4,000 works of contemporary art produced between 1950 and the present day. Split over two venues – one in a historical building in downtown San Diego, the other in the coastal neighbourhood of La Jolla – the MCASD offers a dynamic programme of both solo and collective exhibitions which present artists working across all media: painting, sculpture, photography and video among others.
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