500 Capp Street - The David Ireland House

David Ireland, b 1930- d 2009
500 Capp Street , San Francisco, CA 94110 - view on Google Maps
(415) 872-9240
““You can’t make art by making art” ”
—David Ireland
The 500 Capp Street Foundation honors David Ireland’s legacy by providing visitors the opportunity to experience The David Ireland House and immerse themselves in a 360-degree portrait of one of the West Coast’s most important practitioners of conceptual and installation art.

In the spirit of Ireland—who actively curated the house and frequently opened it to visitors—The Foundation conducts artist-led public tours, presents a dynamic program of exhibitions and public events, maintains a permanent archive of the artist’s extant body of work, and hosts visiting artists from around the world.


“You can’t make art by making art” has become one of Ireland’s best-known sayings and it’s often used to summarize the philosophy that guided his Zen-like, interdisciplinary practice.

As a teacher and mentor, Ireland actively curated his 500 Capp Street home and opened it to visitors from across the globe, including visual artists, writers, musicians, performers, and scholars. In that spirit, the Foundation presents three curated exhibitions per year in direct response to the house, its contents, and permanent collection of Ireland works.
American artist David Ireland is admired internationally for a diverse body of work concerned with the beauty inherent in everyday things and the making of art as a part of daily life. His idiosyncratic, hybrid practice blends sculpture, architecture, painting, and performance, and often draws on ordinary materials such as dirt, concrete, wood, or wire that he collected over time.

Ireland’s best-known work is his house at 500 Capp Street in San Francisco, which served simultaneously as his environmental artwork, social sculpture, and residence for 30 years. It embodies his visual language and exists as both a container for his art and an artwork in its own right.

Ireland boldly began his full-time art career late in life after taking a circuitous route to his calling. In the two decades between his completion of a Bachelor of Applied Art degree from California College of the Arts (now California College of the Arts) in 1953 and finishing his graduate work at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1974, he followed a winding path through military service, marriage, fatherhood, insurance sales, carpentry, and extensive world travels in Asia and East Africa as a safari guide and importer of artifacts.

In 1975, after a yearlong post-graduation sojourn in New York, Ireland returned to San Francisco where he quickly became an integral member of the Bay Area Conceptualist movement —which included living and late peers such as Terry Fox, Howard Fried, Paul Kos, Tony Labat, Tom Marioni, Bonnie Sherk, and Jim Melchert—and helped establish San Francisco as an important center for conceptual art activity, then flourishing throughout the US and globally.

Did you know...?

In 1976, David Ireland repaired the sidewalk outside of 500 Capp Street and declared the action a work of art. The preparation, mixing and pouring of concrete, and subsequent restoration of the sidewalk were recorded on video by the artist Tom Marioni in order to document an event that would disappear underfoot.


More than 2,000 artworks given to the Foundation by Ireland’s estate—a major concentration of sculptures, paintings, drawings, prints,and artist-made furniture—form the core of the home’s permanent collection. The Foundation also maintains some 1,000 pieces of ephemera,personal papers, photographs, and publications housed in a climate-controlled sub-level archive room. The Foundation seeks to grow its collection by acquiring additional Ireland works and archival materials, and by commissioning new artworks made in response to the House.


  • Go on a guided tour, Wednesday - Friday at 11 a.m., 2 p.m, and 4 p.m.
  • Tour at your own pace, Saturday from 12 - 5
  • Engage with trained Artist Guides from the Bay Area’s thriving art, performance, and music communities
  • Observe the meticulous renovation and conservation of the house, completed by The Foundation in January of 2016
  • Experience rotating exhibitions of works by Ireland, his contemporaries, and today's living artists