The Best of SFMOMA

Henrik Kam; Courtesy of SFMOMA

This year marked the reopening of the city’s modern art museum. The $610 million makeover added 235,000 square feet of space over seven levels and now houses 1,900 works, making it the largest modern art museum in the United States. Needless to say, you should visit. It’s nearly triple the gallery space that the museum used to have, which means you’ll be exhausted if you try to see it all. Dedicate a day to it, and check out these highlights that can’t be missed.


Richard Serra’s Sequence

One of the largest pieces in the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection (for which the expansion was designed), this 67-foot-long, 42-foot-wide steel sculpture will greet guests entering from Howard Street. Viewers are welcome to walk within the sculpture’s two interlocking figure eights or quietly observe from the new amphitheater-esque bleachers. Bonus points: You don’t need a ticket to enjoy this area, so if you’ve only got a few minutes and are in the area, you can pop in. 


The Making Of
Building the new SFMOMA was a feat in and of itself, so it’s worth checking out Model Behavoir: Snøhetta’s First Concepts for SFMOMA on the third floor. There you’ll find renderings from big time architect firm Snøhetta, the masterminds behind the expansion, and their initial designs for the building. It was a process that took a lot of time and consideration, including the cultural context of the area surrounding it (this is the arts hub of the city, after all). There’s also a mobile app that provides a narrated walk-through of the biggest design decision in the building. It’s on view until January 2017.

The Living Wall

Architecture firm Snøhetta has built Northern California’s largest living wall, full of plants native to California. The wall is visible from every floor, but if you step out onto the third-floor promenade, you can enjoy it up close.


The Photography Floor

As part of the expansion, SFMOMA has dedicated most of the third floor to photography. One half will feature photographs from the Fisher Collection, while the other will host rotating exhibitions. In between, you’ll find a café serving up Sightglass Coffee (named on About's Top 10 SF coffee shops) and an interactive space in which to learn more about the art form.


The Nature Show

Speaking of photography, the current exhibit is California and the West, on view through September 5, 2016. The exhibit consists of nearly 200 gifts to the museum of photography that shows nature at its wildest, presenting it in as a spiritual resource in ways with works from the best in nature photography: Ansel Adams, Ed Ruscha, Peter Stackpole, Larry Sultan, and many more. These artists also take a look at the changing landscapes and the whole exhibit is organized chronologically (from 1856 to 2014) so you the viewer can see the shifts in the landscapes over time.


The Sculpture Atrium

There will be many sculpture pieces throughout the museum, but the fifth-floor atrium will be extra-special. During construction, the museum found that the original architect, Mario Botta, had placed windows next to the museum’s signature skywalk. The windows let in a lot of western light, so they were boarded up to protect artwork. But now that the museum has more room to display its more delicate paintings, the walls have been torn down to let the fifth floor function as a light-filled sculpture gallery.


The Commissioned Work

Along with its more permanent galleries and rotating exhibitions, the museum is making an effort to showcase newly commissioned works throughout the building. On the fifth floor you’ll find Dutch designer Claudy Jongstra’s Aarde, a textile mural spanning a large wall. She created it by using the wool from the sheep she raises outside her studio in the Netherlands and hand dyeing with botanicals from her farm, as well as local minerals and flora to enhance surface effects. The result is an entire landscape of texture and color that you could stare at for hours. But it also brings attention to Jongstra’s focus on closed-loop systems and trying to practice social responsibility while she makes her work. It’s on display through April 2017.


The Pop Show

One of the inaugural exhibits is Pop, Minimal, and Figurative Art: The Fischer Collection. Located on floor five, the exhibit showcases specifically artists who were working in the 1960s and beyond, especially in painting and sculptor.  That list includes Chuck Close, who’s blown up painted portraits take on a photographic quality, and Sol LeWitt’s wall-length linear murals.


The Movies

Head all the way up to the seventh floor to immerse yourself in the newest of media: film. Film As Place highlights multiple video artists and includes pieces that have a history with SFMOMA. Take Julia Scher’s Predictive Enginerring. It’s a surveillance-based installation that the artist first installed at the SFMOMA’s original Van Ness Avenue building, then again at the last iteration of the institution, and now it comes full circle with a showing at the new building. There’s also Beryl Korot’s Dachau, which was created in 1974 and is an example of some of the earliest multi-monitor video installation.

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