Best Boutique Art Galleries

Cutting-edge artists and eye-popping art await.


Viviana Rodriguez of E14 Gallery

Photo by Lance Yamamoto

Oakland’s vibrant arts scene is full of diverse artists who aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo and push the creative envelope. On the first Friday of each month, the city’s talent is on display at the numerous boutique galleries downtown that come to life at Oakland Art Murmur, a free evening art walk that is part of Oakland First Fridays.

The event features more than 50 galleries, from the tiny to the spacious, the brand-new to the classic. One classic is the Joyce Gordon Gallery, one of the longest-running in the city. A fixture of the downtown arts scene, Joyce Gordon has a comfortable, laid-back atmosphere showcasing fine art that reflects the Bay Area’s diversity.

Pro Arts is another staple, having been around in some version since 1974 when it started as the Alameda County Neighborhood Arts Program. Today, the nonprofit gallery still holds hundreds of art education programs and is one of the most popular stops on First Fridays, featuring modern local work that pushes the boundaries of innovation.

Newcomers in the past several years have kept the Oakland arts scene on the cutting edge, including Betti Ono Gallery, a black-women-operated gallery with a mission to promote the work of underrepresented artists. The stunning space is known to be packed and lively, with work from alternative and emerging artists who are pushing boundaries.

Good Mother Gallery is another trendy space founded in 2014 with a focus on innovative and experimental work. The tiny, two-story gallery buzzes on the weekends; often shows are accompanied by a live DJ.

Don’t miss E14 Gallery, a spacious gallery that embodies Oakland, featuring local artists and selling locally made products in their gift shop. After wandering the various stops, make sure to wind down at Sanchez Gallery, a contemporary gallery that shares a space with Tertulia coffee. Relax in the lounge seating as you look onto Broadway or take in the art on display, often by Chican or Latin artists. No matter the gallery you choose, you’re sure to find fresh and surprising art in Oakland.

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