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An introduction to the san francisco museum of modern art

Despite the expanded potential, reactions were mixed. Much of the criticism focused on the architecture, notably the rippling facade of fiberglass-reinforced polymer panels. The sheathing incorporates white sand from the dunes of Monterey Bay that plays with the light atmospherically. Few will experience this integral view. This fleeting, fragmentary visual experience lends a mirage-like quality to the sculpted facade. The extension, set back, juts out above the original building like a colossal crystal formation.

The Botta building has been hollowed out. The massive granite staircase once rising out of the central atrium is gone—replaced by a switchback stairway crafted of blond wood. The grand second-floor foyer can be accessed from the Third Street lobby or an alternative gateway around the corner on Howard Street. The Howard Street entrance, if less apparent, has more curb appeal: Sequence is one of several artworks accessible to viewers at no charge; no ticket is required for viewing installations on the first and second floors, which also include a Sol LeWitt mural and an Alexander Calder mobile.

During the three years the museum was closed to the public, curators reached out to neighboring institutions, cementing new institutional relationships and opening conversations with new publics.

SFMOMA Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco

No less than five terraces open the upper floors to various cityscapes, while providing optimal environments for sculptural works. This does not diminish the horticultural achievement of the 4,399-square-foot felt surface composed of recycled water bottles, which is home to twenty-one mostly Californian plant species.

The living wall lends impetus to an urban greening movement to which Bay Area artists and activists have significantly contributed. In addition to the balconies and terraces, the building offers visitors many opportunities to convene, discuss, and reflect. Wide hallways and spacious landings between floors invite visitors to mingle. Interactive galleries make lingering a learning experience.

The Phyllis Wattis Theater, too, has been radically upgraded, and, with the newly reopened Berkeley Art Museum Pacific Films Archives across the bay, raises the prevailing standard for film presentation.

And then there are the exhibition spaces, which include new galleries for media arts and more space dedicated to architecture and design.

The interior architecture is restrained.

A Portrait of Our Times: An Introduction to the Logan Collection

No baseboards, no molding, and no windows compete with the art for attention. Lighting bathes the space without calling attention to its mechanisms.

Vaulting makes the extra-high ceilings acoustically as well as aesthetically pleasing. The architecture itself, one might claim, resists the construction of monotonous, linear art-historical narratives.

Three quarters of the pieces displayed are on one-hundred-year loan to the museum by Doris and Donald Fisher, founders of the Gap. The opening survey of Fisher Collection works is the first installment. The Fishers collected big-ticket artists, mostly male, mostly white, all with blue-chip status in this market-driven art economy.


Seven exquisite paintings by Agnes Martin—the only woman with a room of her own—occupy an intimate octagon that visitors refer to as a chapel, an igloo, or a yurt. Works acquired through the Campaign for Art, launched by the museum director, Neal Benezra, to fill the gaps in the Fisher Collection, were initially displayed on the seventh floor, as if to cap the inaugural display of Fisher Collection holdings.

The unevenness and shallowness of the Campaign for Art presentation contrasted jarringly with the depth model so much in evidence below. This compensatory exhibition, a tribute to the regional collectors who have gifted over three thousand artworks, was by its very nature a hodgepodge. Time will tell what stories can be told and how the holdings can be differently expanded, displayed, and contextualized. Already we can sense the emergence of distinctive narratives. The inaugural photography exhibition, California and the West, organized by the outgoing senior curator Sandra Phillips, clearly pointed in this direction.

Architectural environments, like art, have the power to change the way we see things. Each one is painted in bright enamel paint of a different color. For a few seconds after leaving a restroom, retinal retention tints the white museum walls. Still, architecture and design alone cannot shatter the art-historical mold.

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