About the Museum
The San Diego Museum of Art’s mission is to inspire, educate, and cultivate curiosity through great works of art.
Providing a rich and diverse cultural experience, The San Diego Museum of Art houses some of the world’s finest art. Located in the heart of Balboa Park, the Museum’s internationally renowned collection of more than 20,000 works–dating from 3000 BC to present day–includes Spanish and Italian old masters, South Asian paintings including the Edwin Binney 3rd Collection of Indian paintings, East Asian art, American art, and Modern and Contemporary paintings and sculptures. The Museum regularly features major exhibitions of art from around the world, as well as an extensive year-round schedule supporting cultural and educational programs for children and adults. It also hosts engaging experiences that invite visitors to explore art through music, dance, film, food, and so much more. The Museum also has an outdoor restaurant called Panama 66 in the sculpture garden where visitors can enjoy quality sourced ingredients, full bar, San Diego craft beer and live music.
At The San Diego Museum of Art, exhibition text is always in English and Spanish.
The original inspiration for a permanent public art gallery in San Diego can be traced to the Panama-California International Exposition, held in Balboa Park during 1915–1916. The Exposition, which was organized to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal and to promote San Diego as a seaport, also showcased San Diego as a growing cultural center. Among its numerous displays representing various industries and products was a prominent exhibition of fine arts featuring European old masters, American art, and works by California and San Diego artists. The public response to the art exhibition convinced civic leaders and prominent local artists that San Diego needed its own fine arts gallery and collection.
Construction got underway in April 1924 and The Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego officially opened its doors on February 28, 1926. In 1978, Trustees changed the name of the Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego to The San Diego Museum of Art in recognition of the Museum’s status as a repository for applied and decorative arts in addition to the fine arts of painting and sculpture.
The Spanish Colonial–style architecture from the 1915 Exposition suggested the style for the design of the Museum as well as sixteenth-century Spanish Renaissance models in the plateresque style. For the building’s exterior, the architects borrowed motifs from the Cathedral of Valladolid, Spain, and the façade of the University of Salamanca, Spain, while for the interior they adapted features of the Hospital de la Santa Cruz in Toledo, Spain.
The façade was enhanced with the addition of sculptural elements including life-sized sculptures of Spanish Old Master painters Velázquez, Murillo, and Zurbarán as well as heraldic devices and the coats-of-arms of Spain, the United States, California, and San Diego.