San Francisco is a city with a great appreciation for art of all kinds. You can find galleries and museums devoted to a diverse range of art from lowbrow to fine art collections. One of the leading places to see some of the best art in the city is at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA). It is one of the ten best museums in San Francisco and is popular with both visitors and residents of the city.
What is SFMoMA?
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is an art museum that is devoted to showcasing modern and contemporary art. This is art from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. People who are interested in cutting-edge art that really challenges the notions of a particular art period will find the works of art at this museum to be impressive. The museum does feature the work of modern artists, of course. However, their exhibits aren’t limited only to the newest works of art. It also showcases the artwork from artists of the past (famous and lesser known) who were contemporary artists on the cutting edge of their own time. These works of art including traditional art mediums (such as painting and sculpture) as well as less traditional mediums including video, installations and audio art.
Brief History of SFMoMA
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art opened in 1935. It was the very first museum on the West Coast that was dedicated to modern and contemporary artwork.
Permanent SFMoMA Collections
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has a collection of more than 25,000 different pieces of artwork! These items are rotated so that only some of them are on view at any given time. This keeps it interesting to visit the museum over and over again because sometimes you’ll see works of art that are fresh and new and sometimes they’ll be familiar to you. Some of the items in the museum’s permanent collection include works of art by Louise Bourgeois, Frida Kahlo, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol and Paul Klee.
Temporary SFMoMA Exhibits
In addition to the permanent collection at SFMoMA, the museum features temporary exhibits throughout the year. Typically these special exhibits are placed at the museum for a few months at a time, giving you ample opportunity to check them out whether you’re a visitor to the city or a San Francisco resident. For example, the museum had a special exhibit featuring a huge collection of the work of artist Frida Kahlo with some works done by her husband Diego Rivera during the same time period.
Copyright San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Photo by Henrik Kam
2011 exhibits at SFMoMA include:
o The More Things Change. This is a collection of works made since the year 2000.
o Bill Fontana: Sonic Shadows. This is a sound art presentation.
o Paul Klee Exhibit.
o How Wine Became Modern: Design + Wine 1976 to Now.
o Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera Since 1870.
o Picturing Modernity. This is a photographic art exhibit of the American West.
o The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso and the Parisian Avant-Garde.
o New Work: Anna Parkina. Anna Parkina is a Russian artist whose work is on display during the first half of 2011.
Other Things to See and Do at SFMoMA
In addition to the permanent collection and temporary exhibits at SFMoMA, some of the things that you can enjoy here include:
o Curator Talks. The curators of the museum regularly give talks on a variety of different art subjects.
o Film Screenings. There are daily video screenings at the museum as well as occasional full-length film screenings of art films. These often feature talks with the artist. Additionally there are two film festivals hosted at this museum each year.
o Live Art Performances. These are designed to bring you closer to the work of artists.
o Workshops. The museum sometimes hosts workshops that allow museum visitors to participate in various little projects.
o Museum Tours. SFMoMA offers various tours through the museum including handheld multimedia tours.
o Family Events. SFMoMA helps to get kids interested in art with various games and other family events hosted at the museum.
o Lunch at the museum’s café or coffee at the rooftop coffee bar.
o Research at the SFMoMA Research Library. You have to have permission to go to this library but it’s free to visit once you get that permission. It provides you with access to a huge archive of art periodicals, artist files and books on art.
Architecture of sfMOMA
One of the things worth noting about the museum itself is that it has very interesting architecture that is a work of art in and of itself. A circular turret with alternative bands of rough and polished granite protrudes from the top of the building in an eye-catching manner that can’t be missed. Even if you don’t get a chance to stop into the museum, it’s worth it to pass by and see the building from the outside. The best place to get a good view (and some great photos) of the exterior of SFMoMA is across the street at Yerba Buena Gardens (in the courtyard of the Metreon building). There is a lovely fountain here as well as a terrific grassy area and you can see the view of the SFMoMA building from both of these spots.
In 2009, SFMoMA opened a new rooftop sculpture gallery. It is partially indoors and partially outdoors. Although you aren’t afforded a stunning view from this rooftop garden because the surrounding buildings block it, this does provide an interesting way to see permanent sculpture work outdoors at the museum (and you do see a little bit of the city skyline). The rooftop garden is more than 14,000 square feet in size.
The architecture of SFMoMA is set to change again in the near future with an additional expansion. A new wing designed by an architecture firm from Norway is set to be open by 2016. It will triple the size of the SFMoMA’s current gallery space!
5 Ways to Save Money on an SFMoMA Visit
A trip to SFMoMA can be costly for some people but luckily there are a lot of ways that you can reduce the cost of visiting this art museum. 5 ways to save money on a trip to SFMoMA are:
1. Go on free day. The first Tuesday of each month is free admission day at the museum. Note that you will need to pay a small fee to see special exhibits.
2. Go on half-price day. If you aren’t going to be able to go to the museum on the month’s free ay then try to go on a Tuesday evening after 6 when the museum offers half-price admission.
3. Become a member. People who visit the museum regularly can choose to become members. There is a membership fee but then admission to the museum is free with that membership.
4. Go with someone else who is already a member. Members are able to take guests with them at no charge. If someone you know in the city is already a member then take advantage of that!
5. Skip the museum but visit the museum store. If you can’t afford to visit the entire museum or you simply don’t have the time, you can still get a glimpse into the wonders of this artistic space by stopping into the MuseumStore, which is adjacent to the main museum. This store has a huge selection of art books, design items, artistic furniture, creative jewelry and more. It doesn’t cost anything to stop into the store and you’ll see some amazing items. Additionally, there are usually postcards and other items for sale that are relevant to the special exhibits currently on display at the museum so you can also get a sense of what is happening in the rest of the museum by stopping in here. It’s not a total replacement for seeing all of SFMoMA but it’s a free way to see a bit of it.
Regular admission to the museum is $18. Note that seniors and students with ID get half price admission. Active U.S. military members as well as children under the age of twelve get free admission to SFMoMA.
Copyright San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Photo by Richard Barnes
How to Get to SFMoMA
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is located at 3rd Street, just south of Mission Street. The exact address is 151 Third Street. This is in the SoMA neighborhood, just shy of the city’s Financial District and a short walk from the Ferry Building at The Embarcadero. For this reason, it is easy to reach from almost anywhere in the city. You can walk there from Union Square and the Financial District. Alternatively, all buses, BART trains and MUNI cars that head towards the Financial District and the Embarcadero will you put you within walking distance of this museum. Some of the hotels that are located close to SFMoMA include the Westin San Francisco, the W and Hotel Vitale.
SFMoMA is closed on Wednesdays. The museum is open on Thursdays from 11 – 8:45. The museum is open from 11 – 5:45 on all other days. Note that during the summer months (from Memorial Day to Labor Day) the hours are the same except that the museum opens at 10 instead of 11. The Museum Store has slightly different hours and is open on Wednesdays. The museum is closed for three holidays each year: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.