The main incentive driving the SFMOMA expansion was the 2009 donation by Doris and Donald Fisher of the Fisher Collection: 1,100 pieces of extraordinary, contemporary art. The collection included works by artists such as Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder, and Roy Lichtenstein. The Fishers have been collecting artwork since the 1970s, limiting their selection to 20th- and 21st-century American and European art, and including works from movements such as Pop Art, Conceptualism, and Minimalism. The combination of the Collections Campaign and the donations from the Fisher Collection became the motivation for the SFMOMA to expand; there was simply not enough space to exhibit the nearly two thousand new pieces.
How could someone create a space that could honor the brilliance of the additions to the SFMOMA collection? A world-wide competition was announced and select firms sent in proposals for the museum. The Board of Trustees narrowed the competitors down to four, finally selecting Snøhetta. The Norwegian firm was chosen for their “design philosophy and inspired response to the needs and goals of SFMOMA and the Bay Area community,” says SFMOMA’s Communications Manager Robyn Wise. Snøhetta’s innovative design for the new museum will include a white box theatre for live performance space, pedestrian level viewing of art and a large-scale vertical garden. The redesign could also make SFMOMA a contender for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification.
Snøhetta, established in 1989 by the current heads Craig Dykers and Kjetil Thorsen, is an experienced architecture firm, also prominent in landscape and interior design. Snøhetta’s previous projects include the National Opera and Ballet in Oslo, while their current project is the 9/11 Memorial Museum Pavilion at the World Trade Center in New York City. Wise says, “Snøhetta’s dynamic and imaginative body of work demonstrates an outstanding commitment to innovation combined with a solid track record of unique, timely, and fiscally responsible approaches to complex civic and cultural projects.”
With the enlarged facilities, SFMOMA will be able to expand their Bay Area community projects with larger education spaces in the new museum, as well as upgrading the Koret Visitor Education Center and the Phyllis Wattis Theater so as to be better equipped for field trips for students of all ages. “The museum will increase and enhance education spaces in order to grow the number of K-12 student visits from 18,00 to 55,000 annually,” says Wise. “This tripling of the number of schoolchildren who will have access to modern and contemporary art each year deepens SFMOMA’s dedication to students, especially those in the San Francisco Unified School District.” The Phyllis Wattis Theater will be enlarging their stage space with a new green room and better projection capabilities, while the Koret Center will be “encouraging more studio activity and hands-on art-making,” Wise explains. All of this will increase the interaction between students and art in the Bay Area and open the SFMOMA to a wider audience.
During construction, works in the SFMOMA collection will be exhibited in other locations such as the Contemporary Jewish Museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the Asian Art Museum. SFMOMA has dubbed their trans-San Francisco exhibitions “SFMOMA On the Go”. Contemporary Jewish Museum director Lori Starr says, “The concept for SFMOMA On the Go has been in the works for some time. They wanted to display work around the region.” The exhibitions will be displayed throughout different seasons so that SFMOMA art can be seen during the building process.
Currently, the Contemporary Jewish Museum is showcasing “Beyond Belief; 100 Years of the Spiritual in Modern Art” until October 27. When asked about their new exhibit from SFMOMA, Starr said, “We were delighted to take on their work.” Mark di Suvero’s immense, steel sculptures are on display at Crissy Field until May 2014. Mobile and public tours are available for visitors until closing day, as well as multiple documentaries and podcasts about di Suvero on the SFMOMA web site. The Fisher Collection and Pier 24 Photography will be exhibited for SFMOMA Supporting members (those at and above the $250 level) every Thursday at the Gap Headquarters in San Francisco. Docent led tours are available at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., while self-guided tours are at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3:15 a.m.
From the terraces soon to be built on the north side of the new museum, a breathtaking view will be seen of the city. The SFMOMA website boasts that this will be “integrating the urban indoor/outdoor experience.” Because of the updated arts education center, the pedestrian ground-floor gallery and the dispersing of the SFMOMA collection around San Francisco, the terraces won’t be the only part of the museum incorporating both an international and local involvement. “As the museum more than doubles in size, we expect to be able to serve more visitors, both local and international,” Wise says, shedding light on the eminent growth on not only Bay Area community visitors, but global ones as well.