After an almost three year hiatus from the city’s art scene, the long awaited re-opening of the newly revamped SFMOMA is set for May 14. The anticipation and excitement was palpable at a press event this week. Museum Chairman Charles Schwab described SFMOMA’s goals in his address when he said, “Three words -art, architecture and access – best describe the museum’s mission. This is a treat that will challenge the senses and our goal is to make the museum incredibly accessible to the public.” To that end, SFMOMA will offer permanent free admission to those 18 and younger and also open its entire first floor to visitors without a ticket, thus making it one of the most publicly accessible museums in the country.
Bigger, better and more dynamic than ever, it’s easy to imagine people dropping into the museum during a lunch break just to take in the stunning art featured on the first and second floors. Entering from the Third Street entry, one looks up to see a 27-foot-wide Calder mobile suspended above a light suffused sculptural staircase. A new entrance on Howard Street presents visitors with Richard Serra’s monumental rolled steel sculpture, Sequence. To experience Sequence, one walks through its curved inner paths as through an enclosed open-roofed maze with no corners. Adjacent to the sculpture, a curved set of maple-faced Roman stairs form a perfect gathering spot and seating area. “Climb the stairs,” Schwab advises “Each floor is a journey.”
Another standout is the third floor Pritzker Center for Photography. Said to be the largest of its kind, it will house gallery space as well as research facilities. For the museum’s inaugural show, a stellar new contemporary exhibit will showcase works by Richard Diebenkorn, Diane Arbus, Jasper Johns and Francis Bacon. All told, the new structure’s exhibition area boasts three times more gallery space than the original structure with the fourth floor being larger than all five floors from the original building.
Living Wall: Another draw is the 150 foot wide living wall located on the third floor terrace, Designed by Habitat Horticulture, it’s a stunner, a multi-sensory experience and dynamic background for sculpture. With almost 20,000 plants, including 24 species native to California, it’s an ever changing wall of life supported by a recycled water system.
Exterior: The new addition’s façade, influenced in part by the fog and waters of the San Francisco Bay, comprises more than 700 uniquely shaped FRP (fiberglass-reinforced polymer) panels affixed to a curtain-wall system to create rippling horizontal bands that appear to shift in appearance with the changing light.
Take Homes: In celebration of the museum’s opening, the Museum Store features a suite of exclusive jewelry collections designed by three architects and an industrial designer, all women, based on the architecture and design details of the new SFMOMA. Jana Machin, SFMOMA Museum Store director says, “It has been a fascinating process to see each designer interpret architectural elements of the new museum into wearable pieces of art and architecture.”
Palate Pleasers: Adjacent to the Photography Interpretive Gallery, a local artisanal coffee purveyor, Sightglass, serves pastries along with handcrafted coffee. On tap too is hot chocolate custom made from Dick Taylor Chocolate. On floor five, the aptly named Café 5 offers light family friendly fare surrounded by a tranquil sculpture garden.
Haute Cuisine: Beginning in June, visitors can sit down to international fare and enjoy fine dining on site. Chef Corey Lee — recipient of three Michelin stars — has created the fine-dining experience by curating a menu of dishes contributed by over 80 renowned chefs from around the world. With a capacity of 150, the ground floor restaurant will accept reservations for lunch and dinner and also features a spacious lounge.
Hours: Galleries are open daily 10 a.m.–5 p.m. and Thursdays until 9 p.m. Public spaces are open daily at 9 a.m. Due to the much anticipated reopening, visitors will need to reserve tickets on the museum’s website at www.sfmoma.org.