Art and culture in Southern California are dominated by Los Angeles, which boasts museums and galleries with such range and quality that its smaller neighboring city to the south easily can be overlooked. But San Diego surprises with an increasing depth of art offerings, including pedigreed masters, and the energy of emerging contemporary and experimental artists.

The city’s expansive Balboa Park, near downtown, contains several significant institutions, including The San Diego Museum of Art. The 92-year-old museum hosts a large collection of works by Spanish artists, such as master painters El Greco, Francisco Goya and Diego Velazquez

Pierre Auguste Renoir, Hieronymus Bosch, Henri Matisse, Egon Schiele, Anthony van Dyck, Otto Dix, Gustav Klimt and Giambattista Pittoni also are represented in a collection that covers the evolution of western art into the 20th century.

The museum will host the 37th installment of its popular Art Alive fundraising event, April 26-29, which will include a premiere dinner and four-day showcasing of principal local and national artists’ and designers’ floral representations of more than 100 works contained within the museum’s collection.

Also in Balboa Park is the 52-year-old Timken Museum of Art, the backbone of which is the Putnam Foundation Collection of sisters Anne and Amy Putnam. The small museum features an impressive body of work by European masters, including Rembrandt, Peter Paul Rubens, François Boucher and the colonial-era American portraitist John Singleton Copley.

Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego is undergoing renovation and expansion, and is expected to re-open in late 2017. Courtesy of MCASD.

The Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego is undergoing a renovation and expansion at its La Jolla location. It is expected to reopen in mid-2020. (Courtesy of MCASD)

A few miles north in La Jolla is the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, which currently is closed for  renovations, and has a grand reopening slated for the summer of 2020. The $55 million expansion under the direction of German-born architect Annabelle Selldorf will see the museum’s exhibition space increase fourfold to 104,000 square feet.

The collection is focused on international art after 1950, and includes works by Franz Kline, Donald Judd and Ellsworth Kelly.

The museum maintains a downtown location that offers 10,000 square feet of exhibition space and features many works from the permanent collection while the La Jolla expansion proceeds.

Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego maintains a space in downtown (above) as well its main La Jolla location. Courtesy of MCASD.

The Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego maintains a space in downtown (shown), as well its main La Jolla location. (Courtesy of MCASD)

Beginning April 19, the downtown space will host a new exhibition, Being Here With You / Estando Aqui Contigo, which features the works of 42 artists and collectives from the San Diego and Tijuana region. The group show brings together the works of artists who work in a range of mediums, including painting, photography, textiles, ceramics, video and performance.

The city is also home to a growing number of high-quality galleries, such as White Box Contemporary at 1040 Seventh Ave., and innovative projects like Lux Art Institute, 1550 S. El Camino Real in nearby Encinitas, California, which allows visitors to watch the creation process rather than focus solely on completed works.

Space 4 Art is a work-live complex renovated from former warehouses in the city’s East Village at 325 15th St. More than 30 emerging artists create works within the community, many of which can be viewed in the adjoining two-room gallery and live-performance theater.

San Diego’s array of offerings continually grow and change as the city evolves into a major art center, which is gaining increasing International renown.

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