Visiting us? Masks are still required for all visitors, even if you are vaccinated. Read our safety guidelines.

The de Young Open Artist Submission Guidelines

In keeping with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s long history of supporting local art communities, all San Francisco Bay Area artists, whether self-taught or professionally trained, are invited to submit newly created artworks for possible inclusion in The de Young Open, an exhibition that will debut after the Museums re-open to the public. Exhibiting artists will be permitted to sell their artworks following the exhibition and to retain the full proceeds.

Artists are encouraged, though not required, to address the concept of “On the Edge,” which references not only the Bay Area’s geographic location on the Pacific Rim, but also the region’s historical reputation for leading-edge, cutting-edge, or edgy culture and creativity. Recently, the concept of living on the edge has taken on an especially poignant meaning during the COVID-19 crisis.

The de Young curators look forward to filling the 12,000-square-foot Herbst Exhibition Galleries with over 1,000 works of art by Bay Area artists in The de Young Open, the first exhibition of this scale at the Museums. The following guidelines are designed both to facilitate the safe and successful handling and installation of artworks and to beautifully display a robust offering of artworks from our community. Prospective exhibitors are requested to review these guidelines carefully and return to this website between June 1 and June 14, 2020, to complete an online application form and submit digital images for review.

We anticipate that a large number of artworks will be submitted. In order to fairly and thoughtfully make selections, we will be compelled to end the submission process when we reach 6,000 entries. We will post a notice on the submission page if we reach the 6,000 entries limit before the June 14th deadline.

Qualifying Artists

  • Artists who are 18 years of age or older and currently reside in one of the nine Bay Area counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma.

Submission Process

  • Artworks will be considered only through the Museums’ online application form, which will require the upload of digital images for review. Please check our website [] for the link, which will be available beginning on June 1, 2020 and open until June 14, 2020.
  • Artists must complete an online form in its entirety by supplying their full name, artwork title, date, media, dimensions or running time, contact email address, and other descriptions outlined in the form.
  • Artworks should be new works created between 2018 and 2020.
  • Each artist may submit digital imagery for up to two artworks for possible inclusion.
  • For two- and three-dimensional artworks, artists must submit a high-quality jpeg of each artwork in its entirety, in focus, and with adequate lighting. Images must be in 72 ppi resolution and between 1920px (minimum) and 4600px (maximum) on the longest side. Cellphone jpegs are acceptable if they meet the above image criteria. For time-based media/video artworks, artists must submit a URL (and password if needed) to their video, and upload a still pulled from the video.
  • Artists must provide a value (the value will be considered the purchase price if the work is for sale) for each artwork in US dollars.
  • As part of the submission, artists will be required to agree to all terms and conditions set forth by the Museums, including but not limited to a release of liability and an insurance waiver. General terms and conditions are described below, and further specific terms and conditions will be described in the release, waiver, and/or any other forms required by the Museums for submission.

Acceptable Media and Size, Weight and Other Restrictions

Two-Dimensional Wall Art:

  • Two-dimensional artworks, including framed paintings, stretched paintings, framed works on paper (including drawings, watercolors, pastels, prints, and photographs), and very low- relief (4 inches deep or less) framed paintings, sculptures, or mixed media, are acceptable media. Two-dimensional fiber works must either be framed or have a batten board with D- rings or velcro attached on the verso for hanging
  • Two-dimensional artworks can measure up to 36 square feet (6 ft. x 6 ft., for example) and weigh up to 150 pounds.
  • To comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, hanging artworks cannot project more than 4 inches from the wall.
  • Artworks that include materials that could attract pests will be subject to further review and may not be permitted (see “Prohibitive Media” below for more details).
  • Two-dimensional artworks must have two “D” rings for hanging, suitably placed at the left and right sides on the back of a frame or painting stretcher.
  • To facilitate a smooth and safe installation, artists agree to allow the Museums’ art handlers to remove and/or replace existing hanging wire or hardware. If removed and/or replaced, the original hanging wire will not be replaced and/or returned by the Museums.
  • To further ensure a smooth and safe installation, artists agree to allow the Museums’ technicians to add hanging hardware to frames. If possible, existing holes will be used, otherwise new holes will be drilled into the frames. This modification may include, if necessary, the addition of small “mending plates” on the backs of frames or painting stretchers to ensure security and seismic safety. If added for installation, these mending plates will be removed at the close of the exhibition, before the art is made available for retrieval.

Three-Dimensional Pedestal Art:

  • Three-dimensional artworks, including works made of stone, metal, ceramic, glass, wood, and fiber, are acceptable media.
  • Three-dimensional artworks can measure up to 27 cubic feet (3 ft. x 3 ft. x 3 ft., for example) and weigh up to 150 pounds.
  • Three-dimensional artworks must be seismically stable and able to stand freely without mounts and/or other interventions. To facilitate a smooth and safe installation, artists agree to allow the Museums’ staff to secure objects with earthquake wax, tethers, and/or other removable mounting materials.
  • The Museums will supply platforms and/or pedestals for the display of three-dimensional artworks. Artists may not provide their own platforms, pedestals, and/or any other devices for display.

Time-Based Media/Video Artworks:

  • Time-based media/video artworks, limited to single-channel videos only.
  • Time-based media/video artworks can run a total length of up to 15 minutes.
  • To ensure that the Museums can display time-based media/video artworks, artists must submit these artworks in the form of .mp4 files, in H.264 format.
  • Accepted time-based media/video artworks will be displayed in a continuous loop/rotation in the de Young’s media room on 2 x 2 grids (4 total) on 55-inch LCD screens (NEC X551UN) with a Yamaha sound bar to provide any accompanying audio.
  • The Museums will supply the audio-visual equipment to run the media/video artworks. Artists may not provide their own audio-visual equipment.

Prohibited Media (including but not limited to):

  • Wood or plant material that may harbor or attract pests, including but not limited to dried branches, dried bamboo, driftwood, large bark pieces, hay bales and logs
  • Preserved insects, animals, and other organic material, including but not limited to feathers, fur, hair, wool, quills, skins, nests, cobwebs, and antlers
  • Soil
  • Wool yarn or wool fabrics.
  • Food items, including but not limited to fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, dried beans, and rice
  • Liquids, including but not limited to water, in unsealed containers
  • Materials that produce vapor, smoke, mists, and/or odors
  • Glitter and/or confetti
  • Balloons • Flammable, toxic, volatile, and/or explosive materials
  • Weapons
  • Live animals and/or insects
  • Electricity or electrical elements, including but not limited to neon and other lights, holograms, batteries, digital elements, and/or kinetic and/or other mechanical elements
  • Reproductions of your art in another medium (e.g., an offset lithograph of your painting, or a “giclée” print of your watercolor) will not be considered.

The Museum further reserves the right to reject artworks during onsite inspection by Museum staff, if the artworks contain materials that might pose a risk to the Museum, its collections, its staff, and/or the public.

Review Process 

Artworks submitted will be reviewed for acceptance by a committee of curators and other art professionals. Artists will be notified in July if their artworks have been accepted or declined for inclusion in The de Young Open. All decisions by the review committee will be final.

Delivery of Artworks

  • Each artist with artwork(s) accepted for the exhibition will be assigned a specific time to deliver their artwork(s) in person to the de Young at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. This timeframe will begin approximately two to three weeks before the TBD exhibition opening. An artist’s artwork(s) will be accepted only during the scheduled window. Artworks will not be held at the de Young for any additional time before the exhibition opens. Time-based video/media artworks must be delivered via an online portal that will be made available to those video/media artists whose work is accepted for the exhibition.
  • All accepted artworks must be delivered to the de Young at the assigned location (to be shared with participants whose artworks have been selected), and all artworks will be recorded by the Museums’ exhibition registrars.
  • Each artwork must have the artwork’s title, the artist’s name, and the artist’s contact information (email and phone) on a label securely adhered to the back or bottom of the artwork. For time-based video/media artworks, this information must be embedded in the final files submitted.
  • Any wrapping, including paper, bubble wrap, and/or other packing materials, must be removed upon delivery and will not be stored by the Museums.
  • Upon delivery of the artworks, artists will be required to provide a government-issued photo ID as proof of identity and residency in one of the nine Bay Area counties listed above. Acceptable forms of government-issued photo ID include a California driver’s license or a California Real ID.
  • Artworks may not be shipped or mailed to the de Young.


  • Accepted artworks will be installed in the de Young’s special exhibition space, the Herbst Exhibition Galleries, on the lower level of the de Young. Accepted artworks will be installed in a 19th-century “salon style,” nearly edge to edge, in a band 15-feet high (on an 18-foot wall), in the order in which they are delivered. Due to safety, insurance, and liability concerns, artists will not be allowed in the galleries during installation.
  • Staff at the Museums shall place, light, and/or prepare all of the artworks, in its sole and professional discretion.
  • The artworks shall remain in the possession of the Museums from the time the artworks are delivered, throughout the run of the exhibition, until the de-installation is completed. Each artist commits to lending their artwork(s) to the Museums for the full extent of time and cannot withdraw artwork(s) during the period described. When the dates for the exhibition are determined, the dates will be communicated to all participating artists.


  • The Museums assume the right to use any images of the artworks provided by the artists or their representatives, and to photograph, videotape, and/or otherwise reproduce the artworks for documentation, publicity, publication, educational, and all other purposes, in print and digital forms, connected with the exhibition.
  • The Museums assume the right to reproduce images of the works on the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s digital channels, including but not limited to the Museums’ website ( and the Museums’ social media accounts. These images will serve ongoing documentary, educational, and promotional functions for the Museums’ audiences.
  • The general public may take photos for personal, non-commercial use only.

Sales of Artworks

We are working on a process to enable potential buyers to connect with artists to purchase their artwork, and will provide more information when the application website is live.

The Museums’ issuance of these guidelines does not constitute an agreement by the Museums that a work will be selected for exhibition and/or that an artist is in any way otherwise associated with the Museums. The Museums expressly reserve the right at any time to:

  • Waive and/or correct any defect and/or informality in these guidelines;
  • Reject any and/or all submissions;
  • Reissue these guidelines; and/or,
  • Prior to the submission deadline, modify these guidelines.