Three years in the making, the new Snøhetta addition to SFMOMA has upped the ante in the modern art world.
When you enter the expanded San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) from its new Howard Street entrance, the first piece of art you will encounter is Richard Serra’s 214-ton, 40-foot steel plate sculpture, Sequence. The piece is on loan from the Fisher Collection and was moved from outside the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University to the SFMOMA site in 2015, before the exterior glass walls of the new wing were put in place. For this week’s Listen Up we’ve chosen an SFMOMA YouTube video from 2015 about the transportation and installation of Sequence to its extraordinary new location.
“I consider space to be material. The articulation of space has come to take precedence over other concerns. I attempt to use sculptural form to make space distinct.” Richard Serra
In the crowded Financial District of San Francisco, the city’s Museum of Modern Art carved out a piece of the landscape to create a 10-story Snøhetta addition that hovers above its famous Botta black and white oculus and rigid red brick facade like a familiar fog. The architectural combination creates a tension – the original building remains firmly grounded on earth, ballasting the new lofty wings that float in place, anxious to take to the air.
Once inside, movement throughout the space is seamless, clean, light, bright and contemporary, but it is the negative space – the wondrous volume of space around the collections – that now makes SFMOMA a luxurious museum. The ample representation of artists such as Anselm Kiefer, Chuck Close and Roy Lichtenstein (among many others) is fantastic, allowing the museumgoer to study a stunning panorama of 4 to 5 major pieces by one modern master within a single view, then turn the corner for more of the artist’s work from another equally impactful perspective.
Now the largest modern art museum in the United States, the opening exhibits represent a museum that is local, national and international in scope.
A first visit can create an anxiety of riches – where to begin, how to take it all in – the visual stimulation and expansive atmosphere are seductive, luring the visitor from floor to floor well beyond the onset of museum fatigue. Turning away from the art, moving focus through the windows, out onto the walkways and into the sculpture garden, the immediacy of the San Francisco cityscape informs and enriches the experience.
At the end of our day at the museum, surely we had taken in too much of a good thing. But after this prolonged first flush of excitement, we left with the sense of more to come. The new SFMOMA is brilliant, and it is poised for liftoff. One demand while SFMOMA makes that ascent: it’s time to raise the representation of women artists.
The new SFMOMA marries the original building, opened in 1995 and designed by Mario Botta, with the 235,000 square-foot addition recently completed by Snøhetta from Oslo, Norway. The firm Snøhetta was founded in 1989 when an international team of six architects, an artist, and an art historian joined together and won the coveted commission to reconceive the Alexandria Library in Egypt. Since then, the company has grown from its multidisciplinary roots to become world renowned for its architecture, landscape design, interior design and branding concepts. Moving beyond its Oslo headquarters, the firm has set up studios in San Francisco, New York, Innsbruck, Stockholm and Adelaide. Last year the company was honored with a retrospective at the Danish Architecture Centre in Copenhagen. To accompany the exhibit, Snøhetta designed the book People Process Projects, a 300-page illustrated volume which tells the history of the firm in photographs, sketches and models. Collaborative and transdisciplinary, Snøhetta’s humanistic approach is evident in everything they design, from buildings to books. People Process Projects is an unconventional monograph charting the rise of an exciting 21st century creative practice.
It is strongly recommended that you reserve your tickets in advance for the date and specific time you wish to visit SFMOMA. However, you can get a small taste of the building and art free of charge by entering the public spaces (not the main galleries) via the Howard Street entrance any time after 9AM daily until closing. Since you will want to come back again and again, we would suggest considering an SFMOMA membership, starting at $100 per year.
During our visit we discovered most people started their tour on the 7th floor and worked their way down through the galleries. We arrived at 10AM and went directly to the 6th floor (the Fisher Collection of German art) to avoid any crowds. The strategy worked out perfectly.
If you plan to spend more than a few hours visiting the 145,000 square feet of gallery space, a lunch break at the new Café 5 will be in order. Choose a seat outdoors in the rooftop sculpture garden or opt for the air-conditioned interior dining area. Executive Chef Mitch Faber leads the McCall’s catering team with an excellent light menu offering farm fresh gourmet flatbreads, sandwiches and salads as well as a few delicious — and beautiful — desserts. In Situ, three-star Michelin chef Corey Lee’s highly anticipated restaurant, will be opening on the ground floor in June 2016.
There’s always something new on Zippertravel’s Pinterest. This week you’ll find 186 images on our new board “SFMOMArt Journal” at www.pinterest.com/zippertravel.
And while you’re on our Pinterest page, browse through some of the other 180 terrific boards dedicated to travel, architecture, fashion, and design including some original photography by Elizabeth and Steven. You don’t have to be a Pinterest member to view Zippertravel’s boards, but if you enjoy pinning you can do so by clicking on the button in the upper left hand corner of this page or selecting the Pinterest icon below. It’s just that easy.