Spring Arts 2024: Irving Penn, a Multi-sensory Symphony, Alvin Ailey + More
'Heroine' by Rupy C. Tut, one of the works at the Asian Art Museum's Into View: New Voices, New Stories on now through October 17th. (Courtesy of Asian Art Museum)

Spring Arts 2024: Irving Penn, a Multi-sensory Symphony, Alvin Ailey + More

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The San Francisco arts scene catches fire this spring with a wide variety of new exhibitions and performances from masterful, groundbreaking artists in every genre.

From SF debuts like the Tony Award–winning musical A Strange Loop at A.C.T. to the return of annual events like Noise Pop and SF IndieFest, the creativity taking the stage and screen is virtually boundless. Don’t sleep on snagging tickets to this season’s best in San Francisco, Berkeley, and beyond.

This spring's Bay Area arts preview is published in partnership with the San Francisco Symphony, whose current season challenges traditional notions of the genre with a range of performances including a scent-infused Prometheus with the help of Cartier; films set to live orchestra including Lord of the Rings and Gladiator; and a collaboration with Alonzo King's Lines Ballet. Thank you to our partners at SF Symphony.

Art Exhibitions + Fairs

Mathieu Lehanneur, PowerofLove mp3 player, 2009, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Accessions Committee fund purchase; © Mathieu Lehanneur. (Don Ross)

Into View: New Voices, New Stories

With Into View: New Voices, New Stories, the Asian Art Museum challenges the history of art as a male-dominated space. This disruptive collection of contemporary works illustrates the vibrant fantasies, joys, sorrows, and yearnings of primarily women and queer artists, reimagining creativity as a subversive activity that combines multiple time periods, genres, and political and social concerns. Look for works by a number of boundary-pushing, of-the-moment artists including Oakland-based painter Rupy Tut and SF-based filmmaker TT Takemoto. // Through Oct. 17; Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St. (Civic Center), asianart.org


Echoes of Building 123: Artists’ Tribute

For 40 years, the former U.S. Navy site at Hunters Point Shipyard has been a refuge for SF’s artists—the largest of its kind in the U.S. Now, just months before one of its main buildings is slated to be destroyed, 36 of them are paying tribute to its ghostly remains in Echoes of Building 123: Artists’ Tribute. In addition to a variety of creative paintings and photographs, the exhibition will feature historical materials unearthed by Shipyard artist Stacey Carter which document the African-American workforce that was employed there during and after World War II. // Through Feb 29; Hunters Point Shipyard, 451 Galvez Ave., Bldg 101 (Bayview-Hunters Point), shipyardartists.com


Indie Folk: New Art and Sounds from the Pacific Northwest

By delving into the Pacific Northwest’s artistic habitat, the Museum of Craft & Design explores the line between functionality and aesthetics in the upcoming Indie Folk. Seventeen notable artists contributed a variety of works to the exhibition, from artisanal woven baskets and salvaged multimedia objects to patchwork quilts and abstract paintings, each a reminder of the powerful ethos of generational and passed knowledge to artistic practice. A soundtrack of Indie folk music curated by Portland’s Mississippi Records will accompany the visual works. // Feb. 24 through June 30; 2569 3rd St. (SoMa), sfmcd.org


Irving Penn

With this spring exhibition, the de Young brings together the work of Irving Penn, one of the 20th century’s greatest photographers, in a stunning retrospective spanning his 70-year career. Among the almost 200 photos will be the long-time Vogue contributor’s revolutionary takes on post-war fashion, his psychologically penetrating portraits of icons like Audrey Hepburn and Truman Capote, and his early documentary street scenes. An entire section of the gallery will be dedicated to Penn’s photographs from San Francisco’s 1967 Summer of Love, a collection of masterful images capturing the era’s transformative energy. // March 16 through July 21; de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr. (Golden Gate Park), famsf.org


Art of Noise

Tune into 100 years of music and design at SFMOMA. This multisensory exhibition for music lovers features more than 800 works that explore the essential relationship between music and design over the past century. Experience groundbreaking listening devices and hi-fi set ups, plus a wall-to-ceiling “temple” to music graphics featuring hundreds of psychedelic rock posters highlighting SF’s integral role in the 1960s and ‘70s scene. // May4throughAugust18;SFMOMA,1513rdSt.(SoMa),sfmoma.org

Thank you to our partners at SFMOMA.


Unruly Navigations

Key Jo Lee, the Museum of the African Diaspora’s chief of curatorial affairs and public programs, curated this new show testifying to the urgent, disorderly, rebellious nature of diaspora. Unruly Navigations traces the movements of people, cultures, and ideas across the globe in 40 works from nine artists, including Haitian-born Morel Doucet’s delicate porcelain busts and Vanessa German’s provocative multimedia sculptures. Together, they challenge conventional understandings of the diaspora experience and dig deeply into the perspectives of those who have been enslaved, displaced, and disenfranchised throughout history. // March 27 through Sept. 1; 685 Mission St. (SoMa), moadsf.org


San Francisco Art Fair

The name may have changed but the San Francisco Art Fair is just as vibrant and expansive as it was when it was simply called the Art Market. The four-day event will include artwork hailing from 85 galleries around the world, along with a dynamic public programming series. // April 25-28; Fort Mason Festival Pavilion, 2 Marina Blvd (Marina), sanfranciscoartfair.com

Theater + Film

A Strange Loop comes to ACT April 18th through May 12th.

(Couretsy of @strangeloopldn)

San Francisco IndieFest

Ditch the formulaic rom-com-and-Marvel-movie rut of major studios and head for the Roxie Theater instead, where the 26th Annual SF Independent Film Festival has already begun screening. Nearly 100 shorts, feature films, and documentaries are showing over the 10-day event both live and online, including All is Vanity, At Lucy’s Last Night, and Fluorescent Beast—all of which are by local filmmakers—and Big Lebowski Shadow Cast (Feb 16-17), a Rocky Horror-style take on the Coen Brothers’ classic. // Through Feb 18; 3117 16th St. (Mission), sfindie2024.eventive.org


Unscripted

BroadwaySF’s new original series brings luminaries of page and screen to the Curran Theatre for deep conversations about their lives, careers, and impacts on American culture. Actor William H. Macy takes the stage on March 7th, an event that begins with a screening of one of his best known films, Fargo. Also look for an evening with drag icon RuPaul on March 14th. On April 19th, John Cusack will give a behind the scenes look into Being John Malkovich, starting with a screening of the mind-bending classic. // March 7 + 14, April 19; 445 Geary St. (Union Square), sfcurran.com


The Far Country

In its West Coast debut at Berkeley Rep, Pulitzer Prize finalist Lloyd Suh brings his critically acclaimed The Far Country back to the place of its origin. The play follows Moon Gyet, a Chinese immigrant who arrives at Angel Island in the wake of the Chinese Exclusion Act, as he navigates a new life in an unfriendly country with an invented biography that threatens to erase his own. Spanning two countries and three generations, The Far Country is a breathtaking meditation on the sorrow and joy of immigration, identity, and memory. // March 8 through April 14; Peet’s Theatre, 2025 Addison St. (Berkeley), berkeleyrep.org


A Strange Loop

This Tony Award–winning musical debuts its unique combination of hilarity, heart, and soul at A.C.T. this April. The meta Best Musical by Michael R. Jackson explores the life of Usher, a Black, queer writer, as he writes a musical about a Black, queer writer. As Usher grapples with desire, identity, and instinct, his inner monologue is brought to life by a straight-shooting ensemble that will have the audience rolling in their seats. // April 18 through May 12; Toni Rembe Theater, 415 Geary St. (Union Square), act-sf.org


A New Rock Musical

Z Space’s upcoming A New Rock Musical is all orgasms and sexual satisfaction—or the lack thereof. Writer and composer Rachel Lark approaches the themes with razor-sharp wit as her main character, Maggie, embarks on a wild, sex-positive adventure of feminist-bent kink, queerness, and non-monogamy set to a pop-rock tune. // April 21-30; 499 Alabama St. (Mission-Potrero), zspace.org

Music

Noise Pop Festival

Noise Pop, SF’s premier independent arts and culture festival, is back with 10 days of performances from more than 160 artists at 25 venues around the city. The many, many highlights include Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (Mar 1, The Curran Theatre), Snail Mail (Mar 1-2, Great American Music Hall), The Mountain Goats (Mar 1, Grace Cathedral), Cherry Glazerr (Feb 29, August Hall), and Tommy Guerrero (Feb 24, 4 Star Theater). A handful of free events will also take place throughout the festival, including several live performances at the Noise Pop Gallery (849 Valencia, Mission), where the walls will be covered in a collection of bold and brilliant concert posters, and happy hour events at Bender’s Bar and Grill (806 S. Van Ness, Mission). // Feb. 22 through March 3; multiple venues, noisepopfest.com


Scriabin’s Prometheus & Bartók’s Bluebeard

This spring, the SF Symphony will bring a one-of-a-kind multisensory experience to the stage. As pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet fills the auditorium with the music of Alexander Scriabin’s symphonic poem Prometheus, The Poem of Fire, it will come to life with strategically deployed scents from Cartier’s in-house perfumer, Mathilde Laurent and a dynamic performance of shifting lights. The program will continue with a bloodthirsty, folk-flavored fairy tale from Hungarian composer Béla Bartók, Duke Bluebeard’s Castle. Together, they make for a remarkable evening that challenges the boundaries of live classical music. // March 1-3; Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave. (Civic Center), sfsymphony.org


Brandee Younger

SFJazz’s resident artistic director Brandee Younger will bring the house down with two different shows performed over five days in March. The first (Mar. 7-8) is a star-studded musical journey devoted to Younger’s 2023 album, Brand New Life, a collection of works created by or dedicated to jazz harp pioneer. Dorothy Ashby. The second (Mar. 9-10) honors the life and music of another jazz great, Alice Coltrane, along with her son, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane. At both shows, Younger will be joined by a number of impressive artists—Rashaan Carter, Makaya McCraven, Meshell Ndegeochello, DJ Pete Rock and others—whose talents will combine to build a bridge that spans jazz, classical music, and hip-hop. The whole shebang kicks off on March 6th with a listening party that will take the audience behind-the-scenes of Younger’s music and career. // March 6-10; Miner Auditorium, 201 Franklin St. (Civic Center), sfjazz.org


BottleRock Napa Valley

Napa’s epic music fest brings May to a close with an equally epic lineup headlined by none other than rock goddess Stevie Nicks. She’s just one of a huge variety of kick-ass acts for music lovers of every stripe including Pearl Jam, Megan Thee Stallion, St. Vincent, Nelly, Mana, My Morning Jacket, Ed Sheeran, Queens of the Stone Age, and The Offspring. Three-day tickets are already sold out but one-day tix are still available. // May 24-26; Napa Valley Expo, 575 3rd St. (Napa), bottlerocknapavalley.com

Dance

Alonzo King Lines Ballet takes the stage April 5-14 at YBCA.

(Courtesy of @linesballet)

Lines Ballet

In its spring season, Alonzo King Lines Ballet takes on two memorable works. In the world premiere of The Collective Agreement, King, jazz pianist Jason Moran, and the Lines troupe reimagine a 2018 ballet with transformative energy and artistic alchemy. The performance is followed by Concerto for Two Violins, a reprise of a 2013 ballet in which the layers of Johann Sebastian Bach’s classic work from 1730 are remade in metaphor. At the performances on April 10th and 11th, King will be on hand for a Q&A after the show. // April 5-14; YBCA Blue Shield of California Theater, 700 Howard St. (SoMa), linesballet.org


ODC/Dance: Dance Downtown 2024

Two visceral, thought-provoking programs make up this season’s Dance Downtown by ODC/Dance. Both explore themes that range from the cartoon world to the front page, with premieres of three new works—A Brief History of Up and Down, Inkwell, and Goutte par Goutte. Dead Reckoning, an exhilarating performance scored by composer and cellist Joan Jeanrenaud, rounds out both programs with the breathtaking agility and heart by which ODC/Dance is defined. // Mar. 27-31; YBCA Blue Shield of California Theater, 700 Howard St. (SoMa), odc.dance


Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

The exceptional Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater returns to Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall with a whopping five programs this April. Expect classics from namesake choreographer Alvin Ailey, SF great Alonzo King, and the Bay Area premieres of Elizabeth Roxas-Dobrish’s Me, Myself and You, Hans Van Manen’s Solo, and Amy Hall Garner’s Century. // April 2-7; 101 Zellerbach Hall #4800 (Berkeley), calperformances.org


Dos Mujeres

In Dos Mujeres, the SF Ballet interprets the stories of two powerful women through the lens of wild creativity. The performance begins with the world premiere of Carmen, a boundary-pushing reimagining of the classic story about a passionate free-spirit aching for love by Cuban-born choreographer Arielle Smith and Grammy Award–winning composer Arturo O’Farrill. After intermission, Broken Wings, a critically acclaimed masterpiece celebrating the life and art of Frida Kahlo by choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, hits the stage in its North American debut. // April 4-14; SF Ballet at War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave. (Civic Center), sfballet.org


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