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Best Free Public Sculpture in San Francisco 

By Jonathan Curiel

These works could easily be in a museum collection that required paid admission. Instead, they're free to enjoy, in a mix of outdoor and indoor settings that are de facto public galleries of the highest order.

Mark di Suvero at Crissy Field
They bend and point and contort — steel beams with a red patina that resembles the color of the Golden Gate Bridge. There's a reason for that: Sculptor Mark di Suvero has long been inspired by the San Francisco span, and his collection of works at Crissy Field — put there at the direction of SFMOMA — has found an open-air setting that looks toward the bridge. Just a few weeks remain, though, to take in di Suvero's works, which first went up in May 2013, so see them before their last day, May 26.

Ruth Asawa inside the de Young
When Ruth Asawa died last year at age 87, San Francisco lost one of its pre-eminent artists, but the art that Asawa left behind will always testify to her utter originality. The de Young Museum has 15 of Asawa's wire sculptures on permanent exhibit in the lobby area of its tower, where anyone — free of admission — can see their breadth and beautiful intricacies.

Richard Serra inside the Gap building
SFMOMA is closed for two more years so it can expand its space for artwork, including sculpture of native San Franciscan Richard Serra. Until then, fans of Serra's work can traipse to the Gap headquarters at 2 Folsom, where Serra's monumental Charlie Brown anchors the atrium and towers up to the building's apex. UCSF Mission Bay also has a memorable Serra work, Ballast, at its east plaza, giving San Francisco two free Serra works on permanent display.

Stephen De Staebler on Market Street
On a busy stretch of Market Street between Third Street and Grant Avenue stands a sculpture by Stephen De Staebler called Angel. It has no eyes. In fact, it looks like it could be crumbling in parts. But De Staebler did that on purpose, giving his winged figure at 720 Market the appearance of transition, somewhere between being grounded and about to take off.

Keith Haring at Third and Howard
The Keith Haring Foundation has called Untitled (Three Dancing Figures) at the southeast corner of Howard and Third streets "among the artist's most ebullient and celebratory," and it certainly is — one blue figure, one yellow figure, and one red figure in a circle of infectious joy. The sculpture is a timeless work that anyone — child or adult — can enjoy. A major Haring exhibit of paintings and sculpture, "Keith Haring: The Political Line," opens at the de Young in November. That exhibit will last for four months. Untitled (Three Dancing Figures) is with San Francisco for the long term.

(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)


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