SFMOMA Expansion Aims to Redefine Role of Museum in the City

The proposed 235,000-square-foot expansion of SFMOMA
SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra describes himself as having a missionary's zeal, with modern art as his religion.

"There's a misapprehension that contemporary art is difficult, that it's only for certain people," Benezra says. "I don't believe that. I believe it's for everyone."

So Benezra is particularly excited about the expansion to the museum, which was unveiled Wednesday, that he believes will go a long way to bringing art to the masses. The project will break ground in summer of 2013 and is due to open in early 2016. Plans include the construction of a new 235,000-square-foot building that will run along the back of the current Mario Botta building, extending from Minna to Howard. It will have more public entrances, free ground-level galleries, new outdoor spaces -- including a sculpture garden -- and educational spaces connected to the galleries.

He says his goal is for SFMOMA to be one of the greatest contemporary museums in the world, an unavoidable destination for those interested in artists such as Ed Ruscha, Francis Bacon, or Gerhard Richter. But more than that, Benezra says, the expansion gives them a greater connection to the city and the ability to do more for the community. He likes the idea of people passing by -- school kids, families, harried commuters going to or from the nearby Transbay Terminal -- seeing the art inside and feeling welcome to come in and check it out.

"How many museums do you know that you can tell from the outside there is art inside?" he asked. "Here, you'll be able to immediately get a sense of it."

​Benezra says he considers the architectural firm they worked with, Snøhetta, the perfect choice for making this happen. In the museum's rooftop garden Wednesday, Craig Dykers, one of the principal architects, enthusiastically expounded on the particulars of the expansion. After detailing how the outside would have a rippled look to reflect the ever-changing climate of San Francisco and the movement of the water around the city, he spoke about how in designing the expansion he reflected on what a museum is and what it does.

An "art court" would be part of the new building.
​"It's not enough to rely on a prototype of the past," he said, adding that some museums are freezers for art, some are for hanging out, and some only for hardcore art lovers. "We have to do what everyone in this next century, our century, has to do -- make a greater connection to a bigger group of people. We can't continue to chop things up anymore."

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Location Info



San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

151 3rd St., San Francisco, CA

Category: General

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