Cue the lights... Take your seats... This fall's arts and culture scene is looking bright and action-packed.
The major museums are hosting blockbuster exhibits with highlights ranging from Ramses the Great to Angela Davis, while smaller galleries are putting forth bold exhibitions too, such as Fraenkel Gallery's Elton John–curated look at the photography of Peter Hujar.
If it's pizzazz you seek, you will find it in Broadway shows (you can-can get yourself to see Moulin Rouge!) as well as a range of music festivals and dance performances.
Mark your calendars: Here are our top picks for Bay Area arts in Fall 2022.
Museums + Art Galleries
A portrait of Cockette John Rothermel from Elton John–curated exhibit of photographer Peter Hujar. (Courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery)
Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs
Three thousand years after Ramses the Great, the pharaoh's legacy still looms large; the artifacts associated with his reign are among Egypt’s most treasured heritage. This August, 181 of them made their debut in San Francisco for the first time in Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs. Explore ancient tombs, eye delicate Egyptian jewels, and don't miss the exhilarating VR experience.
// Through February 12, 2023 at de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr. (Golden Gate Park), deyoung.famsf.org
Undoing Time: Art and Histories of Incarceration
This exhibition at U.C. Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive showcases the work of 12 contemporary artists exploring the philosophical, sociological, and historical roots of today’s mass incarceration crisis. On November 6th, look for Pulitzer Prize–winning artist Raven Chacon to present a site-specific sonic meditation on the history of the prison on Alcatraz Island.
// September 3through December 18; BAMPFA, 2155 Center St. (Berkeley), bampfa.org
Peter Hujar, Curated by Elton John
The show at Fraenkel Gallery exhibits 50 photos by the late 20th century American photographer Peter Hujar. Selected by musician Elton John, the curation features black-and-white portraits (of the likes of Steve Wonder, Peggy Lee, and drag performer Ethyl Eichelberger), nudes, and landscapes, including some images culled from the singer's own personal collection.
// September 8 through October 22; Fraenkel Gallery, 148 Geary St. (Union Square), fraenkelgallery.com
The Way Things Also Are
Revisit the Mission's David Ireland House this fall when Berkeley-based painter and sculptor Libby Black pops up with an exhibit inspired by the late conceptual artist's archive of work and by his home with all its everyday domestic objects. Her paintings and still-life sculptural installations reflect on visions she shares with the late Ireland through her own personal history as a woman, lesbian, and feminist.
// September 10 through October 8; The David Ireland House, 500 Capp St. (Mission), 500cappstreet.org
Brett Cook and Liz Lerman: Reflection and Action
YBCA is marking the culmination of a two-year residency for two artists—Bay Area native interdisciplinary artist Brett Cook and choreographer, performer, and MacArthur Genius Grant recipient Liz Lerman—with a series of multimedia gallery installations. We're especially watching out for Wicked Bodies (Oct. 28-30), Lerman's new piece of dance theater that considers issues of women, their bodies, and the aging process.
// October 20, 2022 through April 2, 2023, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission St. (SoMa), ybca.org
The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion
In the only West Coast presentation of an exhibition curated by New York art critic Antwaun Sargent and organized by Aperture, see how 15 Black fashion photographers from all over the world present fresh perspectives on themes of race, beauty, gender, and power. The New Black Vanguard features more than 100 images by contributors to top glossy magazines and designer fashion brands.
// October 5, 2022 through March 5, 2023 at Museum of the African Diaspora, 685 Mission St. (SoMa), moadsf.org
Angela Davis–Seize the Time
On heels of its current exhibition Hella Feminist, the Oakland Museum of California strikes again with another compelling exhibit that's as timely and poignant as it is historical. Tapping the Angela Davis Archive, OMCA holds a mirror up to the memory and preservation of radical Black history but also portrays Davis not just as an icon of the resistance and female empowerment of yore but as part of a broader narrative that is ongoing today.
// October 7, 2022 through June 11, 2023 at Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak St. (Oakland), museumca.org
Into View: Bernice Bing
This fall, the Asian Art Museum spotlights a San Francisco original. Born in Chinatown in the 1930s, Bernice "Bingo" Bing was a queer Asian-American woman who became a notable figure in the Bay Area cultural scene during the second half of the 20th century. Twenty paintings and works on paper here track the evolution of Bing’s work, from midcentury paintings that blur the lines between Abstract Expressionism and figuration to later works from the 1980s and '90s that blend Zen calligraphy with Western abstraction.
// OpensSeptember 30th; Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St. (Civic Center), asianart.org
The Sinking Ship/Prosperity
Kadist San Francisco presents the first U.S. solo exhibition for Brazilian interdisciplinary artist Jota Mombaca, whose recent work dives into the restless, elemental properties of water. It is part installation (sound, video) and part live performance and poetry that considers how our habits of consumption may have depleted the planet.
// October 27, 2022 through January 28, 2023, Kadist, 3295 20th St. (Mission), kadist.org
Once dismissed by critics as unserious, San Francisco artist Joan Brown (1938-1990) was a visionary of the Bay Area Figurative Movement rooted firmly in research and curiosity. Deeply embedded in the city and the local art scene, she drew inspiration from many familiar sources to create a whimsical and offbeat works that mingled autobiography with fantasy and weightier metaphysical themes. This exhibition, featuring 80 paintings and sculptures, is the most expansive retrospective of the artist’s work in more than 20 years.
// November 19, 2022 through March 12, 2023; SFMOMA, 151 Third St. (SoMa), sfmoma.org
Adelante, by Axis Dance Company. (Courtesy of Axis)
Axis Dance Company's new artistic director, Nadia Adame, opens her premier home season with Adelante, a program (literally translating to "forward" or "go ahead") comprised of three different performances each celebrating the strength of the human spirit. Adame is joined by choreographors Ben Levine and Asun Noales.
// September 16-18 at ODC Theater, 3153 17th St. (Mission); axisdance.org
Joe Goode Performance Group opens the stage to this second bi-annual dance festival, which will highlight premieres of new works by JGPG, Brontë Velez, Gizeh Muñiz-Vengel, and Ernesto Peart Falcón. Expect themes of queer lineage, Black liminality, and nostalgia.
// September 15-18 at Joe Goode Annex, 401 Alabama St. (Mission), joegoode.org
Written, directed and choreographed by Shana Carroll of The 7 Fingers Collective (Dear San Francisco: A High-Flying Love Story), Passengers explores one thing strangers all typically have in common—we all have someplace to go—via a mashup of contemporary dance, circus arts, acrobatics, and theater.
// September 15 through October 9 at Geary Theater, 415 Geary St. (Union Square), act-sf.org
The Velveteen Rabbit
It's been a Bay Area holiday delight for 36 years now: Under the direction of KT Nelson, The Velveteen Rabbit brings the beloved children’s book to life with larger-than-life storybook characters portrayed by the dancers of ODC with whimsical costumes and plenty of cheer.
// November 26 through December 11 at Blue Shield of California Theater, YBCA, 700 Howard St. (SoMa), odc.dance
Moulin Rouge! The Musical. (Matthew Murphy for Murphymade)
Moulin Rouge! The Musical
The 10-time Tony Award–winning exciting Broadway musical based on the iconic Baz Luhrmann film is coming to SF with all the hedonism of bohemian Paris. Put on your can-can shoes and get ready for a fantastic show. Big fan of BroadwaySF? Also look for performances of To Kill a Mockingbird, Jagged Little Pill, and Ain't Too Proud.
// September 9 through November 6 at Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St. (Civic Center), orpheumtheatersanfrancisco.org
Jeff Dunham: Seriously!?
If esoteric performance art isn't really your jam, treat yourself to some LOLs with ventriloquist comedian Jeff Dunham, who's bringing a suitcase full of characters to shine a light on the absurdity of the times in his acclaimed standup tour, Seriously!?
// September 18 at Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway (Oakland), paramountoakland.org
Not a Genuine Black Man
Bay Area native Brian Copeland got his first taste of racism as a Black kid living in San Leandro, then a racist enclave, in the 1970s. As an adult comedian and radio talk show host, he experienced the reverse, an anonymous letter from a listener repulsed by his voice: "You are not a genuine Black man.” So, he did what any thinking funny man would do: he wrote a solo show about it. Prepare to laugh, cry, and reflect on the history of people of color in the Bay Area.
// September 30 through October 1 at Presidio Theater Performing Arts Center, 99 Moraga Ave. (Presidio), presidiotheater.org
A.C.T. stage regular Bill Irwin draws on his talents as a Tony Award–winning actor and clown to present the language of Irish writer Samuel Beckett as we have most certainly never heard it before in this highly personal 90-minute solo show.
// October 19-23 at Geary Theater, 415 Geary St. (Union Square), act-sf.org
Music + Festivals
Second Sky Festival in Oakland (courtesy of the festival)
San Francisco Opera's 100th Season
Celebrate a century of world-class opera in San Francisco at the ultimate glamorous kickoff: The SF Opera Ball on September 9th begins with dinner and cocktails at City Hall followed by a performance at War Memorial Opera House before a late-night after party back beneath the dome. Additional season highlights include Opera in the Park, at Robin Williams Meadow on September 11th; Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin (Sept. 25 through Oct. 14); and Verdi's Traviata Encounter (Nov. 19).
// San Francisco Opera opens Sept. 9 at War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave. (Civic Center), sfopera.com
San Francisco Symphony
Davies Symphony Hall lights up for the 2022-2023 season of the SF Symphony, under the direction of Esa-Pekka Salonen, on September 23rd at the opening night gala featuring a unique performance of Midsummer Night's Dream, with actors from the African-American Shakespeare Company and sopranos Anne-Marie MacIntosh and Elisa Sunshine. Later in the season, look for guest artists including Peter Sellars, Julia Bullock, and SF's own Michael Tilson Thomas; plus films set to orchestra, and more.
// San Francisco Symphony opens Sept. 23 at Davies Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave. (Civic Center), sfsymphony.org
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival
Emmylou Harris, the Seratones, Jay Som, The Brothers Comatose, Marcus Mumford, and Lucius are just a few of the names already confirmed to headline the return of this popular outdoor music series in Golden Gate Park and also at a handful of venues—including the Chapel, Sweetwater Music Hall, and Little Saint—around the Bay Area.
// September 30 through October 2 at Golden Gate Park, hardlystrictlybluegrass.com
What do Daniel Handler, Bonnie Tsui, K.M. Soehnlein, and Kamau Bell's mom have in common? They're all making appearances at this year's edition of Litquake, the festival that "puts the lit back in literary" (ba-dum-ch!). For two whole weeks, San Francisco will feel just a little smarter as bookworms come together for storytelling, panels, and talks; the Poetry World Series; live jazz; and book launches (we're looking forward to the debut of our friend Soehnlein's Army of Lovers on the 20th). What does Kamau Bell's mom have to do with this? Author Janet Cheatham Bell will be in the house for a women's storytelling night at the Verdi Club on the 19th. As always, the fest wraps up with bar-hopping Lit Crawl on the 22nd.
// October 6-22 at venues around San Francisco; litquake.org
Breakaway Festival Oakland
The multi-city, genre-blending music festival known as Breakaway is breaking into the California market with the help of Another Planet Entertainment. Expect two days of sound and shenanigans featuring headliners Gryffin, Louis the Child, Big Wild, Said the Sky, and Tycho.
// October 14-15, Oakland Arena Grounds, 7000 Coliseum Way (Oakland), breakawayfestival.com
Day to Night Festival
You don't have to twist our arms to hit up a DJ dance party on Treasure Island during what is typically the Bay Area's most beautiful month. This small community fest will features international musicians at the turntables, a furnished VIP experience, pre-parties, and after-parties.
// October 15-16 onTreasure Island, daytonightfestival.com
Second Sky Festival
Porter Robinson's third electronic music festival returns to Oakland with a personally curated lineup including RL Grime, Magdalena Bay, Bladee, Hudson Mohawke, and more artists.
// October 29-30, Oakland Arena Grounds, 7000 Coliseum Way (Oakland), secondskyfest.com