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The Coolest Art Gallery in San Francisco Is Underneath a Dry Cleaner in Chinatown

And you can even go to a party there tonight. 

Pictured: An art gallery. For real.

Pictured: An art gallery. For real. 

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Pictured: An art gallery. For real.

We told you there was an art gallery.

(2 of 3) 

Pictured: An art gallery. For real.

Media based time byt Chris Duncan

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No matter how much you may pine for a cheaper and cooler past, San Francisco is still a wonderful city to live in. Exhibit A: There is a unmarked, secret art gallery hidden under a dry cleaner in Chinatown that shows contemporary work by emerging artists. And it's amazing.

Walk into the dry cleaners at 620 Kearney, wave to the people pressing shirts, head back through a long unmarked hallway, and walk down a flight of stairs, and you'll find the Et Al gallery. The 450-square-foot gallery, founded in 2012 by Facudno Argañaraz, Jackie Im, and Aaron Harbour, showcases the work of emerging local artists like James Cordas, Anthony Discenza, and Lauren Marsden. “We have the people who are not yet in a museum,” says Im, “but soon will be.” The windowless space is long and narrow, and echoes carry, letting their artists play with light and sound. Et Al is on good terms with the dry cleaners upstairs. “They are super generous,” says Im. “They come down to see the art and when people are confused they are very nice about directing them.”

Et Al is just one of several art spaces in Chinatown that fit themselves into unexpected spots. The Chinese Culture Foundation runs its gallery on the third floor of the Hilton Hotel across the street from Portsmouth Square. (They landed the space as part of a development deal when the skyscraper was built in 1973.) Starting in March, the foundation is hosting the first US solo show of Shanghai-based artist Lu Chuntao. There’s also Capital Gallery on Sacramento, which is only vaguely near a dry cleaners, not under one. The contemporary gallery run by Bob Linder and Jonathan Runcio will be hosting work by Rainen Knecht and Brendan Fowler this spring.

But among Chinatown's unexpected art galleries, it's Et Al that stands out as the most, well, unexpected. Stepping down the stairs is one of those moments that feels like you've slipped into a magical realism novel: The facade of the normal peels away to reveal something unexpectedly weird and wonderful. Go check it out now. In fact, you can go see new work by Oakland's Chris Duncan at tonight's opening party.


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