The Launch Of The New SFMOMA

OMG! The new atrium at the entrance of the new SFMOMA!

All things not so old are made new again.


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It’s been three years since I’ve been inside of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. To be honest, when it closed in 2013 for its renovation I wondered if I would ever get the chance to step into it again. One never knows how things like this will play out.

But last week I found myself standing in the middle of the second floor, milling around the breakfast bar with the other guests, wondering where I was standing exactly in relationship to the old museum. It wasn’t immediately apparent. It was early in the morning and while I was curious, I let it go, as I could figure it all out later. Or at least I thought so.

I walked over to a railing at what I thought was the back of the floor and realized that I was staring down into the original entrance atrium. I went down the new staircase, which is much more open and easier to climb than the old ones, and went down by the front door for a look. The change is quite dramatic and took my breathe away for a moment. As I stood there taking photographs, Terry Smith, one of the guardians of the museum, lovingly told me about his own relationship to the space. “She’s got on a new dress,” he said. “You women think we don’t notice when you put on a new dress, but we do!”

The first floor galleries have been returned into their original spaces. One is still greeted by Matisse when entering the collection this way. As I went through the space I realized that it had been long enough since I had been here, that I couldn’t remember what was old and back in place, or what was new. So I looked at it all as new.

One of my favorite pieces in this section was “The Veronica” by Jay DeFeo. A long and narrow abstract painting, showing movement and flow, created in earth colors – grounded, yet fluid. A beautiful piece. It’s placed so that it can be easily viewed from the next room. But on this floor you’ll also find Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, Robert Arneson, Clifford Still, Jackson Pollock …

At the end of the galleries on the second floor is a new media room – with large touchscreens on the wall to further explore the artwork just seen, a way to touch the paint, so to speak, and a small lounge area where visitors can peruse art books and catalogues while charging their cell phones.

Speaking of cell phones and technology, it was good to hear that the museum will encourage the visitors’ use of technology to share the their experiences of the works and the new architecture.

One of the features that I’ve always loved about SFMOMA was, and still is, its strong curatorial interest in photography. The Museum’s collection on the third floor is vast and it now has a whole floor to call its own. Museum visitors can explore and appreciate photography that spans about 180 years of work, from daguerrotypes to contemporary installations.

The fourth floor to seventh floor currently holds The Fisher Collection. On these floors you can view works by Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin, Anslem Kiefer, Sol Lewitt, Claus Oldenburg. Andy Warhol, Chuck Close, Philip Guston, Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Frank Stella, Gerhard Richter, Georg Baselitz, and many others.

There are quite a few spaces for viewing single pieces and art films and one of my favorites is currently on view – Passage by Shirin Neshat. It is probably one of only a few art films I’ve sat through to the end and I found watching it a breathtaking and spiritual experience.

There is also a nice space for a few paintings by Cy Twombly – and who wouldn’t like sitting in a space surrounded by a few Untitled works by him?

Richard Serra’s work, Sequence, is in the lobby gallery of the building. One would hardly call it beautiful on first glance, but view it from all angles and don’t hesitate to walk through it – that’s the best part. The only thing I would like better – and yes I will mention it as it won’t really deplete your experience of it – is if it was sitting outside somewhere on gravel or grass with the sky above.

If you feel the need to see some green after that, go on up to the third floor courtyard and view the living wall, created and installed by David Brenner.

One day will not be long enough to see all the work in the galleries. In the end, it took me all day to just do a walk through and snap a lot of Instagram images so I could bring this post to you. Luckily there will be three different, and yummy, opportunities to dine or grab a coffee on site – so you won’t get distracted by having to leave the building to replenish your energy.

If you are coming to San Francisco, definitely make a whole day of it and see what you can!

SFMOMA Hours and Admission

SFMOMA is open to the public seven days a week from 10am to 5am through Labor Day, with free public spaces on the museum’s ground floor opening at 9am daily. The museum will have extended hours on Thursdays until 9pm, giving visitors the opportunity to enjoy exhibitions and programs in the evening.

Annual membership begins at $100, and members enjoy unlimited free admission. General admission to SFMOMA is $25, admission for seniors 65 years and older is $22. Admission for visitors ages 19 through 24 is $19. SFMOMA additionally provides free admission to all visitors 18 years and younger, to further its goal of building the next generation of art lovers.

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Below are just a few of the images that I took during my day at the new SFMOMA.

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Last week I had the opportunity to run around the new version of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art like a kid in a candy store. The Museum had invited about a hundred or more members of the press, blogosphere, and twitterverse to convene in its new digs and have a look around. The event started at 9:30am and lasted until 4pm. Let me say, right up front, that was not enough time to really see all of the work in the museum …

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Because there are quite a few good articles out there already describing in great detail the facts about the new museum, I decided to switch it up a bit, and write about visiting the new museum from an artist’s perspective. Here are just a few of the links I’ve found so far:

The Monolith, San Francisco Magazine, by Gary Kamiya
SFMOMA’s New Vertical Garden Is the Largest Living Wall in the United States, San Francsico Magazine, by Lauren Murrow
Changing the modern-art game: Have you seen what they’ve done in San Francisco?, The Boston Globe, by Sebastion Smee
SFMOMA promises chance for spiritual awakening, The San Francisco Examiner, by Malcolm Clemens Young
A Look Inside the New SFMOMA Wing by Snøhetta, Architectural Digest, by Ian Volner
SFMOMA’s reopening: a ‘game-changer for San Francisco’ – and contemporary art, The Guardian, by Paul Laity
New SFMOMA: International destination for modern, contemporary art, The Sacramento Bee, by Victoria Dalkey
Snø Job: 15 Highlights of the Expanded SFMOMA, SF Weekly, by Jonathan Curiel

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