Illuminate SF

November 21, 2017

The designers of the luxury condos at 181 Fremont in SoMa know that a building can be a work of art—and that embrace of artmaking is no less true of a city.

San Francisco, on its architecturally distinctive peninsula, is one of the great American examples of urban aesthetic magnificence—and there is no better way to celebrate the city’s beauty—and the holiday season— than with the Illuminate SF Festival of Light. For the festival, which runs from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, artists create light installations throughout the city that transform public spaces into works of art and turn San Francisco itself into an illumination.

Like 181 Fremont, the festival is yet another manifestation of the ways that the city of San Francisco is at the forefront of both artistic and urban innovation. It’s only fitting, then, that some of the best artists in the world would be drawn to make work for a first-of-its-kind festival that puts light art on the map—literally and figuratively. Artists working at the cutting edge of conceptual and sculptural light art, including prominent artists like Vito Acconci, Dan Flavin, Lisa Gemmiti, James Turrell, and Leo Villareal, are featured in both the year-round lighting project and the festival.

The most iconic example of San Francisco’s identity as a home and breeding ground for light art and artists is Villareal’s massive light installation The Bay Lights, which spans the north side of the Bay Bridge; it was made permanent just last year. Villareal’s use of the bridge’s original design and infrastructure is a perfect example of how light art can expand upon and become a natural extension of preexisting architecture.

The festival will also feature more organically structured works in the city streets, at the San Francisco airport, and in some of the city’s finest museums, as well as artist talks, guided tours, and self-guided itineraries. Flavin’s Monument for V. Tatlin can be seen at the SFMOMA, one of a series of homages to the Russian artist Vladimir Tatlin who was a pioneer of the use of technology in making art. Meanwhile, Illuminate CEO Ben Davis’s Hope Will Never Be Silent, an installation honoring Harvey Milk, “will serve as a permanent greeting.”

Davis’s piece is a great example of the way that, by taking the illumination project city-wide, the organizers of Illuminate SF have created a new art form that makes the whole city its canvas—adding to the illuminated skyline and incorporating it into the artwork’s design. You’ll have the perfect view from your luxury condo at 181 Fremont overlooking the many lights—old and new—of San Francisco.