Founded in 1935, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has a long, rich story. As the first West Coast museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art, SFMOMA expanded in 1970-1972 before moving in 1995—in celebration of its 60th anniversary—into a building especially designed to host its collection by Mario Botta. Closed to the public for massive expansion construction in 2013, SFMOMA reopened three years later with a 10-story addition designed by Snøhetta.
With nearly triple the exhibition space, the beautifully transformed SFMOMA now offers 170,000 square feet of galleries, and is the largest modern and contemporary art museum in the country. Inspired by the San Francisco Bay—its surrounding waters and foggy weather in particular—the eastern facade comprises more than 700 fiberglass reinforced polymer panels affixed to a curtain-wall system, creating a horizontal undulation and changing its appearance depending on the light.
The Snøhetta architecture not only looks to the future but also complements the original building, connecting to it by way of a sculptural staircase. On the third floor, the vertical garden—with over 19,000 plants, including 24 native species, all maintained with recycled water—is a true work of art. One of the many terraces offers stunning views of San Francisco, integrating the museum into the urban landscape and highlighting its relationship with the city.
Today, SFMOMA’s collection comprises over 47,000 artworks by masters such as Alexander Calder, Frida Kahlo, Jackson Pollock, Gerhard Richter and Cindy Sherman, among others. Furniture, product and graphic design, architecture, video, film, paintings, sculptures, works on paper and live performances can all be discovered in the museum.
At the same time as its 2016 reopening, SFMOMA launched the new Pritzker Center for Photography, a 15,000-square-foot gallery that is the largest space in any U.S art museum permanently devoted to photography.
From May 19-Sept. 2—Andy Warhol – From A to B and Back Again—the first retrospective of the artist organized in the U.S. since 1989—will feature more than 300 works of art that were first on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Opening May 23, JR: The Chronicles of San Francisco will present the outcome of a project led by internationally acclaimed artist JR who, during two months in early 2018, filmed, photographed and interviewed over 1,200 people from different communities all over the city.
And this October to February 2020, Soft Power will showcase new works and commissions by 20 artists from around the world who understand themselves as social actors. Better connected to the city, the welcoming, expanded building by Snøhetta provides a new experience. “No longer an inward looking shrine to the art object, a museum today must engage with its local conditions and communities in a proactive way,” the architects say. sfmoma.org
PHOTOGRAPHS: (CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT) BY HENRIK KAM, IWAN BAAN AND MATTHEW MILLMAN, COURTESY OF MOMA