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Walnut Creek Magazine

SFMOMA - The city’s new modern art museum opens May 14

Mar 26, 2016 11:06AM ● By Lou Fancher


The art world will pivot on its axis on May 14, 2016 when the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) opens the doors to the largest contemporary and modern art museum in the United States. The $305 million building, designed by architecture firm Snøhetta and funded by a $610 million capital campaign, nearly triples the museum’s space to 170,000-square-feet. Expanding the original South of Market structure, fiberglass panels cascade like a waterfall to form the exterior façade, while inside modular ceilings and windows illuminate spacious atriums and intimate galleries with natural light.

SFMOMA will introduce visitors to nearly 260 postwar and contemporary artworks from the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection, comprising roughly one-third of the 600 pieces promised to the museum. Communications Director Jill Lynch says the Fisher-SFMOMA partnership and 100-year loan are unique. “It’s a novel partnership. Other museums are looking at it because it’s so mutually beneficial,” she says. With the museum and its resources, the Fisher collection can finally be viewed by the public and it’s a big prize for SFMOMA’S flagship expansion. “It’s a win-win and the public benefits,” says Lynch.

 Other features are no less impressive: “Modern Cinema,” a partnership with the San Francisco Film Society, launches the museum’s first ongoing film program; the Pritzker Center for Photography, a 15,000-square-foot gallery, displays selections from 17,800 photographic works; the seventh floor highlights media arts, initially focusing on artists Beryl Korot and Julia Scher. “This is Julia’s third iteration of Predictive Engineering. Each time we’ve moved, in 1993, 1998 and now, she’s had to recreate it. Thank goodness it’s Cloud-based,” says Lynch.

In a gift of colossal proportions, an anonymous donor has made it possible to offer FREE museum admission to all visitors under the age of 18. The gift is endowed, meaning it lasts into perpetuity. “We are expanding our programmatic range for kids. We want to triple our reach to bring in 55,000 school kids in 2016. We’ve erased the price of admission for that reason, eliminating the largest obstacle for attendance,” says Lynch.

Other departments capitalize on the momentum of increased access. The Koret Education Center will offer school/artist initiatives, teacher professional development and adult education courses. A new restaurant In Situ helmed by Chef Corey Lee will provide guests with a “global culinary experience,” says Lynch. And 45,000-square-feet of free public access permits visitors with limited means a portal to ground floor galleries and sculpture, including Alexander Calder’s fanciful 26-foot-wide mobile, “Untitled.”

Completing the picture of the museum for people who prefer their art to move is the new White Box Theater and an ambitious commissioning program. “I can’t name any names of performances now,” Lynch says, while leaving the suggestion that events will include music, dance and mixed media. School field trips will want to take advantage of two upper floors, where a terrace and window allow people to observe visiting artists at work or to watch conservators in the Conservation Center transfer art stored in beta to contemporary formats. “Technology’s impact is not only evident, but is part of the entire experience, with interactive exhibits throughout the museum to take deeper dives into collections or specific works of art,” says Lynch. Dedicated to creating the next generation of new arts appreciators, Lynch says SFMOMA’s new digs broadcast one big idea: It’s never too early to launch a lifelong love of art. For more information, go to

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