Ordinarily, 7x7 launches an annual Fall Arts Preview at the start of each September, full to the brim with stage performances, exhibitions, art fairs, and more. Alas, 2020 is no ordinary year and, last month, venues remained dark and empty.
But fret not! As October dawns, the lights are flickering on at museums including the de Young and SFMOMA where the curatorial teams were ready and waiting with blockbuster new shows and free admission to boot. Of course, some of our favorite companies (Lines Ballet) and festivals (Litquake) are keeping it surreal with virtual events this year, but we promise they are making it well worth tuning in from home.
Below Bay Area culture vultures will find several engaging ways to get their fix this season, and we will update this guide as venues come back to life. Don't forget to wear your mask and keep your distance when you venture out.
The De Young Open + Frida Kahlo
There is much to celebrate at the de Young Museum this fall, starting simply with the reopening of its hallowed halls post-shelter in place. And we can think of no more exuberant means of return than with the unveiling of Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving, an artistic and stylistic exploration of the personal life of the vibrant artist who worked stubbornly and joyfully through a life of disability and excruciating pain.
But this year also marks the 125th anniversary of the museum. To celebrate, a massive juried exhibition, The de Young Open, will features 877 artworks by 762 artists from across nine Bay Area counties. The pieces will be installed salon-style throughout the Herbst Exhibition Galleries 12,000 square feet. Topics include Black Lives Matter, Covid-19, and the City of San Francisco.
// The de Young Open runs Oct. 10 through Jan. 3. Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving runs through Feb. 7, 2021; De Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr. (Golden Gate Park), deyoung.famsf.org
As gallery spaces have languished during shelter in place, a group of Bay Area gallerists—think Jessica Silverman, Claudia Altman-Siegel, and more—has come together to launch an interactive online platform that celebrates artists and galleries from around the region and brings the possibility of buying local fine art to the internet. On the first Thursday of every month, 8-bridges will launch eight shows of artists relevant to the Bay Area, with current highlights including Fraenkel Gallery, Pace Gallery Palo Alto, and Ratio 3. In October, look for Gagosian's deep dive into the works of visual artist Jay DeFeo, a Cal alum who was iconic among San Francisco's Beat generation and is best known for her monumental painting, "The Rose." You can also schedule an appointment to see Transcending Definition: Jay DeFeo in the 1970s, in person at Gagosian through October 31st.
2020's annual literary fest kicks off October 8th with legendary local author Amy Tan in conversation with Kevin Kwan, author of the bestselling book-turned-movie Crazy Rich Asians. Co-presented by 7x7, the virtual event will delve into Kwan's new comic novel, Sex and Vanity (yep, the film adaptation is already in the works). Also look out for events featuring 150 authors—including Tom Perrotta (Mrs. Fletcher, Election) and International Booker Prize shortlist nominee Fernanda Melchor—and, of course, the Lit Crawl, which goes global this year in a special broadcast with participating sister cities including Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Angers, France. PS: Don't miss the debut of Litquake Out Loud, a new curatorial program highlighting the Bay Area's BIPOC & LGBTQ+ writers and thinkers.
// October 8-24; litquake.org
Alonzo Kings Lines Ballet: Constellation
Renowned choreographer Alonzo King again partners with visual electronic artist Jim Campbell and mezzo-soprano Maya Layhani for Constellation, a two-part broadcast dance performance that explores the orientation of our bodies to light. Lines Ballet dancers will weave their usual spells as they interact with spheres and strings of LED lights, that drape their bodies and tuck into their hands and the crooks of their knees, for a truly enlightened show.
// Act I streams Oct. 2-16, Act II streams Oct. 9-23; linesballet.org
Bay Area Walls
Let's hear it for the reopening of SFMOMA!—beginning with member preview days October 1-3 and free community days October 4-18. While, yes, you can catch up on such ongoing exhibits as Elemental Calder (through Nov. 22) and David Park: A Retrospective (through Jan. 18, 2021), you definitely won't want to miss the all-new Bay Area Walls, a stunning mural commission by local artists Twin Walls Mural Company, Muzae Sesay, Liz Hernández, Erina Alejo, and Adrian L. Burrell. These large-scale works span three floors of the museum and consider the Covid-19 pandemic and reveal the far-reaching impact of 2020 across Bay Area communities.
// SFMOMA, 151 Third St. (SoMa), sfmoma.org
Alexandre Singh: A Gothic Tale
If you missed this dramatic film installation that explores the Gothic literary tradition as well as San Francisco's own role in the genre of film noir, you can make up for lost time when the Legion of Honor reopens on October 30th (the exhibition has been extended through December 6th). Covid-related safety precautions are, of course, in place so you can feel safe in extending your visit to peruse the permanent collection. There will be free admission to essential workers through the end of the year and to the general public on Saturdays. Pre-purchased tickets for timed entry are required.
// Through Dec. 6; Legion of Honor, 100 34th Ave. (Sea Cliff), legionofhonor.famsf.org
Never has the notion of us, two wheels, and a wide open road sounded so desirable. Get a taste of the biker life at Museum of Craft + Design, where Moto MMXX uncovers the world of custom motorcycle design through cutting edge bikes, models, and sketches from builders around the world. Timed admission tickets are required.
// Open to MCD members Oct. 14-15 and to the public starting Oct. 16, through Jan. 3, 2021; 2569 Third St. (Dogpatch), sfmcd.org
Big Picture: Natural World Photography
When Cal Academy of Sciences reopens to the public on October 23rd, animal and nature lovers are sure to be wowed by this epic exhibit of 49 images, selected from more than 6,400 submissions from 65 countries during the Academy's Big Picture photography contest, chaired by award-winning wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas. While you're there, get spooked at the exhibit Venom: Fangs, Stingers, and Spines. Advance purchase of timed entry tickets is a must, and you can expect vigorous safety protocols including reduced capacity, increased air filtration, extra cleaning, social distancing markers, and outdoor dining.
// Cal Academy is now open to members and opens to the public Oct. 23; 55 Music Concourse Dr. (Golden Gate Park), calacademy.org
Orbits of Known and Unknown Objects: SFAI Histories
Curated by Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, this interactive online exhibition celebrates 150 years of the San Francisco Art Institute via more than 75 objects relating to the school's history and contributed by SFAI alumni and staff.
// Through December 31, 2020; matrix277.org
"Currents" — a Video Series + Podcast from the San Francisco Symphony
While the stage at Davies Symphony Hall remains dark due to Covid-19, SFS is keeping up with the current times via a four-part video and podcast series. Featuring music and conversation, "Currents" explores four distinct cultural and musical traditions: jazz in the Bay Area; San Francisco's Chinese community; hip hop in Oakland; and the artistic folklore of Mexico.
// Watch now at sfsymphony.org/currents.
Dorothea Lange: Digital Archive
The Bay Area has always been proud to claim as one of our own photographer-activist Dorothea Lange, whose prolific body of images shined a light on poverty and injustice and reflected Lange's deep empathy for people around the world. This special archival exhibition brings together more than 25,000 negatives and 6,000 prints.
// Through Dec. 31; Online via Oakland Museum of California, dorothealange.museumca.org
Ballet Book Club
Alas, there will be no Nutcracker this year. Instead, you can support the San Francisco Ballet by signing up for a special Zoom book club event hosted by Ballet staffer and arts advocate Phil Chan whose recent book, Final Bow for Yellowface, chronicles his own journey navigating race, representation, and inclusion in the industry.
// 6pm, Dec. 1; sign up at sfballet.org.