San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art prepares for construction phase

SFMOMA curators offer a glimpse at the next phase of art museum's expansion project as the current building prepares to (temporarily) close for construction.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor on

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco is gearing up to temporarily close this summer as it prepares to enter into a major construction and expansion phase for the following two and a half years.

Janet Bishop, curator of painting and sculpture at SFMOMA, summed up some of the goals with the expansion during a media presentation at the museum on Wednesday morning.

That list includes creating new opportunities for artists and audiences to experience lesser-known pieces while also boosting momentum for the Bay Area art scene.

Under the new design spearheaded by the Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta, the additional 10-story building will approximately triple the space of the current location in San Francisco's South of Market district.

SFMOMA director Neal Benezra cited a few statistics that he posited demand the additional space.

For starters, Benezra noted that half of the visitors in the museum's entire history since opening in 1935 have come in since 1995. He followed up that membership has also tripled since 1995, and the collection has more than doubled within the same time frame.

Thus, one of the essential elements to the new building plan is that it more than doubles capacity for hosting art.

Benezra also stressed the influence of the SFMOMA expansion project on the surrounding neighborhood, highlighting a future direct pathway to new Transbay Transit Center, which is also currently in development.

Set to commence June 3, SFMOMA will then launch its "offsite phase" as current collections will be split up and hosted at other fine arts and cultural museums around California until the scheduled re-opening in January 2016.

Benezra explained why museum leaders opted to close altogether and tour its portfolio rather than run a modest operation, much like what the Museum of Modern Art in New York City did.

Acknowledging what New York's MOMA did was a "tried and true model," Benezra stressed SFMOMA wanted to follow another path.

"The backbone to this is to invent a new experience for this community," Benezra remarked, adding that SFMOMA is aiming to become a museum that reaches out more in a way "that museums generally do not do."

For those in the area, SFMOMA will be hosting a special celebration period from May 29 through June 2, complete with live music, museum staff and curators on-hand for discussions, and late-night access to collections currently on display.

Images: Snøhetta/SFMOMA Expansion Project

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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