California’s world-class museums and top-tier galleries spotlight the culture, history, and creativity of the state. Throughout 2020, the Golden State will welcome a few brand-new museums, some exciting updates to existing ones, and plenty of special exhibits.
One great way to kick start the year in art: Check out the Southern California Annual Free-for-All Day on Jan. 25, when more than 40 museums—ranging from La Brea Tar Pits and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History to Orange County Museum of Art and The Broad—will waive admission charge. Sacramento is also hosting a Free Museum Day on Feb. 1 to kick off Sacramento Museum Week, offering complimentary admission to more than 25 museums.
The California Museum, Sacramento
In August, The California Museum will unveil a special exhibition to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. Its California Women Inspire exhibit starting in March will also celebrate California’s Remarkable Women.
Charles M. Schulz Museum, Santa Rosa
The Sonoma County museum, which is the former home workshop of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, will host an exhibition titled Lucy! Fussbudget to Feminist to showcase the character's evolving role as a feminist. The exhibit, opening in March, is timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote.
OMCA will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year with a series of special events, a new campus area, a new public café, and an expanded venue for its popular Friday Night events with food trucks and live music. OMCA’s entertaining Burning Man exhibition runs through Feb. 16.
Among the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s series of exhibitions this year, Diego Rivera’s America will be a highlight, showcasing 160 pieces of Rivera–related art and artifacts, including his 74-foot wide, 22-foot-tall mural masterpiece “Pan American Unity.” The exhibit opens Oct. 24 and runs through Jan. 31, 2021.
De Young Museum, San Francisco
The de Young Museum will host the internationally acclaimed exhibition Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963–1983, organized by England’s Tate Modern galleries. It features powerful works by black artists during these two pivotal decades. The museum will add special performances, talks, and concerts now through March to highlight Bay Area artists and activists who were part of this movement. Insider tip: The de Young is offering free admission to the entire museum on two remaining Saturdays: Jan. 11 and Feb. 8.
The Tech Interactive, San Jose
After rebranding from the “Tech Museum of Innovation” last May to become “The Tech Interactive,” to emphasize its hands-on, immersive mission, this Silicon Valley museum will introduce a major new interactive exhibit area called “Solve for Earth.” Opening in August, the exhibit will have workstations and project areas for visitors to explore technology solutions for environmental issues.
The museum’s newly renovated exhibition spaces will open Oct. 11 for Through Vincent’s Eyes: Van Gogh and His Sources. The world-class exhibition presents 15 Van Gogh paintings along with more than 125 pieces of 19th-century art and artifacts that inspired these masterworks.
The Getty Center, Los Angeles
Michelangelo, Mind of the Master is a three-museum collaboration that brings together more than two dozen of Michelangelo’s plans, sketches, and drawings he used as a basis for his famous works including the Sistine Chapel Ceiling and The Last Judgment. The Feb. 25–June 7 exhibition will be a great “behind the scenes” look at the creative process of the legendary artist, architect and sculptor.
Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Los Angeles
This long-awaited museum celebrating the art, history, and technology behind motion pictures is slated to open December 14. The spherical, six-story, 300,000-square-foot campus will be a landmark and must-do for visitors to L.A.
LACMA is currently undergoing a major renovation and construction project, targeting a full reopening of currently closed galleries in 2024. In the meantime, its BCAM and Resnick Pavilion will remain open through 2020 and will feature exhibitions including the substantial Fiji: Art and Life in the Pacific, which assembles artworks and cultural treasures from museums around the globe.
Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, Palm Springs
This museum in downtown Palm Springs will focus on the history and culture of the Agua Caliente Tribe of Cahuilla Indians when it opens this year. The complex will also feature a hot springs spa and bath house and an interpretive garden trail.
“The Nat” will offer new guided nature hikes through June of this year, giving visitors the opportunity to take the learnings from inside the museum and apply them to an outdoor, real-world setting in San Diego County. The walks range from short, family-friendly trails to more rigorous eight-mile treks up into nearby desert mountains, exploring everything from bird watching in the San Diego Estuary to searching for Native American artifacts amidst the slot canyons of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.