San Francisco MOMA reopening

Emmy Hicks-Jablons, Staff Writer

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has been closed since June 2013. The museum closed to undergo an extensive expansion that will double its exhibit space, enabling it to showcase a significant amount of new art, including the remarkable Doris and Donald Fisher Collection.

Doris and Donald Fisher, founders of The Gap Inc., based in San Francisco, began collecting art in the mid-seventies. The couple never worked with a curator or adviser, but simply sought out pieces of art that they both enjoyed. Their son, John Fisher, who is also an Urban alumni parent, said, “They actually started out buying a lot of prints, because prints offered them a way to collect the works of great artists that they really liked. But because they were prints and not unique pieces, they were considerably less expensive and that was a great way for my parents to develop their love for art and appreciation for certain artists.” Over time, the Fishers began to expand their collection, incorporating different media of art such as painting, sculpture, and photography. Now, approximately four decades later, the Fisher Collection consists of 1,100 works of art including pieces by famed artists such as Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder, Chuck Close, and Richard Serra. John Fisher said that the SFMOMA announced that it would be partnering with the Fisher Collection in 2009, which was “the day or two before my father passed away … It was kind of a very special thing that he was able to see the collection that he and my mom had collected become part of what was going to be on many levels a new museum.”

In terms of the expansion, Fisher said that the SFMOMA essentially “took the old museum and added a whole new building to it and connected the two buildings so they really flowed all together.” He continued, “The benefit of adding on to the museum was that you didn’t have to do all of those extra spaces again; so they got a lot more efficiency out of the additional building … as a result, the amount of exhibition space is going to go from about 55,000 to 130,000 square feet which will make it, I think, along with the New York MOMA, the largest contemporary art museum in the United States.” This expansion will not only allow for the housing of the Fisher Collection, but will also enable the museum to showcase a significant amount of its art that was previously in storage.  

Fisher described a particularly exciting piece from his parent’s collection by the artist Richard Serra that will be displayed in the entrance of the new museum. The piece is an enormous 235-ton steel sculpture called “Sequence.” He said, “They actually had to bring the sculpture in before the building was completed because it’s so difficult to pull it in and out of the building … On some level they built the building around it.”

Another feature of the new museum is an expanded space dedicated to photography. Fisher said, “Over the last twenty years, photography has been recognized as equally important for a museum’s collection as works on paper. The SFMOMA has made 15,000 square feet of photography space, which I think will make it, outside of the Metropolitan in New York, the largest exhibition space devoted to photography.” What he described will be called the Pritzker Center for Photography, which will be the main feature of the building’s third floor. Not only is this triple the gallery space devoted to photography, but it  will also include the Photography Interpretive Gallery. This space will allow visitors to have a more hands-on, interactive experience with the medium of photography.

Although the SFMOMA is adding an entire new building, Fisher explained that the new and old spaces are cohesive. He said, “The entrance to the new building is on Howard Street but the entrance to the original building is on Third Street, so it almost becomes an ‘L.’ Where those two buildings join each other, it looks seamless and they really flow together.”

The new and improved SFMOMA is scheduled to open on May 14, 2016. The museum’s expansion and reopening is a prominent addition to San Francisco’s arts and culture scene, as it will allow both Bay Area residents and international visitors to experience the world-renowned work of the Fisher Collection. Urban students can also engage with the new museum, as people 18 years old and younger receive free admission. In the words of John Fisher, “For a city of our size to have a museum that’s the same size of one of the top contemporary art museums in the world is a real testament to what a wonderful city we live in.”