Three Outdoor Public Sculptures in San Francisco

See recent posts by Debbie Abrams Kaplan

Cupid's Span and the Bay Bridge

Publicly commissioned art is everywhere in San Francisco — in the airport, post office, hospitals, playgrounds, and even near museums. But these three standout sculptures are some of the most-loved in the city.

Three Dancing Figures: If you’re visiting the Yerba Buena Center half a block from the W Hotel, stop by Keith Haring’s Untitled sculpture, also known as Three Dancing Figures. Using primary colors, the painted aluminum piece is quintessentially Haring’s style: pop art that’s eye catching, colorful, and fun. You can even climb on it — or rather, your kids can. The San Francisco Arts Commission paid for the piece, which went on view in 1989, about a year before the sculptor died of AIDS. 3rd and Howard.

Cupid’s Span: Walking along the San Francisco waterfront, you might be surprised to see a giant bow and arrow partially buried in the grass. It’s Cupid’s Span, created by famed sculptors Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. Controversial for its location on the water and its size — the piece is 60 feet high — the 2002 sculpture is made of fiberglass and stainless steel.

As with most art, you can interpret the piece any way you want – whether you’re struck with love of San Francisco, or you just notice the resemblance between the shapes of sculpture and the boats or bridges nearby. The sculpture was given to the city by the Gap’s founders, Donald and Doris Fisher. Incidentally (or not), the Gap’s corporate headquarters are nearby. The Hyatt Regency is just down the street, almost on the waterfront, too. Folson and Embarcaradero.

Hearts: “I Left my Heart in San Francisco” may be a Tony Bennett song, but hearts are definitely associated with the City by the Bay. At Union Square, and throughout the city, you’ll find five-foot-tall (and more than three-foot-wide) hearts decorated by Bay Area artists. New 400 pound sculptures are unveiled every February, and you can spot them through the summer. Then they’re off to their new owners, who buy them through a San Francisco General Hospital Foundation fundraiser. You can spot a heart from your window at the Grand Hyatt on Union Square.

–Debbie Abrams Kaplan of Frisco Kids and Kaplan Ink.

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