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January 26, 2016
Neal Benezra

How I See San Francisco: SFMOMA Museum Director Neal Benezra

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) shook the art world in 1935 when it became the first museum on the West Coast devoted entirely to modern and contemporary art. In 2016, the museum broke barriers once again with an ultramodern, Snøhetta-designed expansion and a host of new offerings. After spending nearly three years “on the go” presenting exhibits and programs around San Francisco, museum director and Bay-Area native Neal Benezra (who also happens to be the brains behind the expansion) was eager to unveil the new SFMOMA to the world.

What will the new space offer?
It will more than double the current exhibition space and feature more of our collections of painting and sculpture, media arts, and architecture and design than ever before. It will also include the Pritzker Center for Photography — the largest exhibition and interpretive space dedicated to photography at any art museum in the U.S. — and galleries dedicated to the Fisher Collection, one of the world’s largest and most extraordinary private collections of modern and contemporary art.

What feature are you most excited about?
Accessibility to the public — I’m thrilled we will be able to share an art-filled ground floor, open to all and free of charge. We will also triple the number of school children we serve each year, and offer free admission for visitors 18 and younger.

Architecturally speaking, Mario Botta (original architect) and Snøhetta (new design firm) have two very different looks. How does the new space balance their styles?
Although the two buildings look very different from the outside, once inside our visitors will feel that they are very closely aligned. Our Snøhetta-designed expansion dovetails with the original Botta-designed building through a renovated central stairway that connects the two buildings and is open and welcoming to the visitor upon entering our Third Street entrance. Both buildings incorporate the original maple floor treatment visually linking the two spaces. On the exterior, the unique rippling pattern on the Snøhetta façade was inspired by the water of the Bay. Natural light and views of the city are interspersed throughout both buildings, connecting visitors to the outside environment and to the incredible city in which we’re situated.  

Which artist do you never tire of?
The work of Gerhard Richter never fails to amaze me. Richter constantly tests the boundaries of painting, creating landscapes, cityscapes, still-lifes, portraits, photo-based painting and dramatic abstractions.

Here are even more reasons to get excited about the New SFMOMA.


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