Renovated SFMOMA enhances art


Claire Kosewic

“Double Gong,” a 1953 mobile by Alexander Calder hangs in the “Alexander Calder: Motion Lab” exhbition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Calder is most famous for his hanging sculptures, which consist of abstract shapes connected by wires.

I have been a self-professed disliker of all art and architecture labeled “modern” from a young age, never understanding why what looks like just a bunch of paint splattered on a canvas is just as much “art” as a Monet landscape. But the newly redesigned San Francisco Museum of Modern Art did not let me walk out of the galleries feeling the same way.

Designed by the Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta, the seven-floor expansion building resembles an iceberg with window cut-outs, miraculously squeezed into a small space around the existing structure — similar to what the Titanic might look like, had it been built with an iceberg attached.

The Snøhetta building’s floors exactly line up to those of the previously existing structure, and allow the two very different exteriors to become one harmonious, uninterrupted interior, an imperative for a museum. A line purposefully marked in a darker hardwood on the floor is the only way a visitor can distinguish between the two structures.

The museum’s expanded art collection now boasts a stunning 33,000 works of art from pop art to figurative art, and includes a brand new space completely dedicated to photography,  billed as the largest of its kind in an American museum.

The galleries are generally divided by artist, a smart move that makes it simpler to digest the different styles of art that fall under the umbrella term of “modern.”

One of the most standout galleries is dedicated to the work of minimalist painter Ellsworth Kelly, whose fantastic attention to detail and brilliant use of color results in eye-catching and deceivingly simple works of art.

A new interactive gallery allows visitors to learn more about the works of art by playing in a slideshow of quotes by famous modern painters, such as American Milton Avery, who quipped, “A blank canvas is a thing of beauty. The challenge is to cover it and still retain that beauty.”

Through painstaking efforts of benefactors, architects and builders, the once blank canvas of SFMOMA has been enhanced and upgraded to truly display the splendor of art, retaining the beauty the building originally had and making it even more radiant.

Attempting to experience all that SFMOMA has to offer in a few hours can result in a “museum overload,” a phenomenon of exhaustion from trying to absorb a large breadth of content extremely quickly.

Make the museum a day trip and walk through the galleries slowly, trying to understand why the museum curators put a portrait by Henri Matisse beside a golden sculpture resembling a deformed egg. Then, see why it is impossible to hate modern art.

The museum, which reopened to the public on Saturday, is located at 151 3rd St., in close proximity with Yerba Buena Gardens. Admission to the museum is always free for members and anyone 18 and under, $19 for adults ages 19-24, $25 for adults ages 25-64 and $22 for seniors.

The admission price for teenagers can’t be beat, so there’s no reason to stay home.