San Diego Museum of Art

The San Diego Museum of Art is in Balboa Park, San Diego, and is the oldest and biggest art museum in the city with a fine collection of Spanish art.

The San Diego Museum of ArtThe San Diego Museum of Art

Where Is the San Diego Museum of Art?

The museum is in Balboa Park in San Diego, and is easy to find as it's directly across from the Balboa Park Visitors Center on the other side of the Plaza de Panama Fountain.

It's a 10-minute drive or taxi ride from downtown San Diego, or 15 minutes by bike. There are also regular bus services which stop at the entrance to Balboa Park. Check out Route 120, Route 7, and Route 215 on San Diego's Metropolitan Transit System.

The San Diego Museum of ArtThe San Diego Museum of Art

History of the San Diego Museum of Art

The museum was founded in 1926 and was known then as The Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego. In 1966 the west wing and sculpture court were added, and in 1974 the east wing was added. In 1978 it changed its name to the San Diego Museum of Art.

The San Diego Museum of Art

The design of the building is very Spanish in style, in order to fit in with some of the other buildings around. The very striking entrance is modelled on a doorway at the University of Salamanca in Western Spain, while other influences are from buildings in Toledo and Valladolid.

The San Diego Museum of Art

Museum Collections

Although it is especially known for its Spanish art (see below), the museum has a wide-ranging collection. It has over 20,000 items from all over the world, the oldest of which dates back to 3,000BC.

Here you'll find Buddhist sculptures from Japan and China, through to one of the best collections of German Expressionist art in the USA, and a collection of American art.

Major names whose works can be seen include Canaletto, Dalí, de Chirico, Fra Angelico, Giotto, Rubens, Gaugin, Munch, Braque, Barbara Hepworth, Gustav Klimt, Magritte, Matisse, Miró, Monet, Henry Moore, and Georgia O’Keeffe.

The San Diego Museum of Art

Spanish Art

Some of the more famous Spanish artists whose work you will find here include El Greco, Goya, Murillo, Zurbarán, Velazquez, and Ribera.

The San Diego Museum of Art

Sculpture Collection

In addition to names like Edgar Degas, Aristide Maillol, Jacob Epstein, Joan Miró, Rodin, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, the sculpture collection includes the oldest item in the entire museum. This is a circular disk made from nephrite (a type of jade) dating from about 3000BC and found in China.

The San Diego Museum of Art Sculpture GardenThe Sculpture Garden

Photography at the San Diego Museum of Art

The museum has a fascinating photography collection too. This includes several portraits of Pablo Picasso by Arnold Newman, Alfred Eisenstaedt's photograph of 'Ernest Hemingway Walking in Cojimar Harbor, Cuba', and works by Edward Weston, and Henri Cartier-Bresson.

A YouTube visit to the San Diego Museum of Art

How Long to Spend at the San Diego Museum of Art?

It's clear from the vast range of the museum's collections that you can easily spend all day, or even longer, visiting the museum. At the very minimum you should allow 2-3 hours, even to see the highlights.

The San Diego Museum of Art

San Diego Museum of Art on YouTube

The museum has an excellent YouTube channel, with virtual concerts, behind-the-scenes tours, a look at some of the temporary exhibitions that they've had, talks about specific items in the museum's collection, and much else besides in literally hundreds of videos.

More Information

Visit the San Diego Museum of Art website.

You'll also find them on Facebook and Twitter.

Where to Stay in San Diego

Some Other San Diego Pages

  • Balboa Park in Facts and Figures

    Here are facts and figures about Balboa Park in San Diego, which is bigger than New York's Central Park and contains 19 gardens, 17 museums and 14 restaurants.

  • Visiting Balboa Park

    Visiting Balboa Park is one of the best things to do in San Diego, California, as the park is home to San Diego Zoo, several museums, and beautiful gardens.

  • Where to Stay in San Diego

    Pacific Coast Highway Travel's website recommendations on Where to Stay in San Diego include reviews of budget and luxury hotels in downtown San Diego.

  • Whale Watching from the San Diego Shoreline

    Whale watching trips and tours in San Diego are one of the California city's best activities but you can watch the whales from the San Diego shoreline too.

  • SeaWorld San Diego

    SeaWorld in San Diego is the original marine theme park, featuring killer whales, dolphins, shark encounters, manatee rescue, and Journey to Atlantis.

  • San Diego

    San Diego in Southern California is a major travel destination and this page from Pacific Coast Highway Travel has visitor information and best things to do.

  • San Diego Whale Watching

    San Diego whale watching tours like this from Hornblower Cruises let visitors get up close to see gray whales, dolphins, sea lions and other wildlife.

  • San Diego Things to Do

    Things to do in San Diego include visiting the world famous San Diego Zoo, touring the city's outstanding Wild Animal Park, whale-watching and visiting museums.

  • Good Cheap Motels in San Diego

    Pacific Coast Highway Travel recommends good cheap motels in San Diego including Super-8, Motel 6, Travelodge and Days Inn.

  • Cheap Flights to San Diego

    Cheap flights to San Diego with Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, WestJet and other airlines from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.

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