Bringing contemporary back: San Francisco MOMA to re-open Spring 2016

By: Lindsay Wright

December 16, 2015

New York City may be the modern art darling of the United States, but the San Francisco MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) has a long history of showcasing world-class works to the public, originally opening in 1935 as the West Coast’s first museum devoted solely to modern and contemporary art.

In June of 2013, SFMOMA closed its doors to prepare for a three-year makeover and massive expansion, tripling its current space in San Francisco’s South of Market (SoMa) neighbourhood and revitalizing the architecture. After much anticipation, the museum will re-open on 14th May, 2016 with a bang, presenting fresh ideas, renowned exhibitions, and a stunning new design by architectural firm Snøhetta. Here’s what visitors can look forward to when the museum opens its doors next spring.

Personal collections and world-renowned works


When SFMOMA’s new Pritzker Center for Photography debuts on the third floor, it will be the largest permanent dedication to photography in any art museum across the U.S. More than 17,800 photographs will be displayed across 15,000 square feet of gallery space, including landscapes and images of the American West.


Doris and Donald Fisher, also known as the founders of San Francisco-based apparel company Gap Inc., have donated 260 works for the SFMOMA Fisher Collection which will be carefully curated throughout the museum’s third, fourth, fifth and sixth floors.

San Francisco MOMA
From the Third Street entrance, the museum will offer expansive views of the space © Photo Courtesy of SFMOMA 

“Collecting was very personal for them – they’ve developed long relationships and friendships with artists and have collected across the arc of many artists’ careers,” said Jill Lynch, Communications Director at SFMOMA. “One of the reasons it’s so exceptional is the fact that they’ve collected in such great depth and breadth. They discovered several postwar German artists, and we will have one of the finest presentations of those artists.”


Well-known contemporary artists such as Francis Bacon, Jasper Johns, and Jackson Pollock are all part of the Campaign for Art collection. Three thousand works including paintings, sculpture, photography, and architectural design will be dispersed across several floors of the museum.


Expanded outdoor space and fine dining

San Francisco MOMA
A bird’s eye view of the new SFMOMA design by Snohetta. The new design is seamlessly incorporated with the original Mario Botta design. © Photo by Henrik Kam, Courtesy of SFMOMA

Absorbing the impressive catalogue of works throughout SFMOMA can be a lot to take in at once, which is why 45,000 square feet of public space throughout the museum has been created to allow visitors to “refresh the palate” with a short break. A new Sculpture Terrace features the longest Living Wall in the Bay Area, comprised of 15,000 plants that will serve as its own work of art. A terrace on the top floor (the seventh floor) runs the length of the building, offering breathtaking cityscape views.


There’s also much excitement around the new concept from Michelin-star chef Corey Lee of San Francisco’s Benu restaurant. Opening soon on the ground floor of SFMOMA, In Situ will be a destination in itself, open outside of museum hours. A new café housed on the fifth floor in the Sculpture Terrace offers a more casual but delicious menu, and San Francisco-based Sightglass Coffee will have an outpost on the third floor.

San Francisco MOMA
The ground floor interior will include a view of three exceptional works of art. © Photo Courtesy of SFMOMA 

More public (and free) access


Visiting museums as a family doesn’t have to break the bank. SFMOMA will now offer free admission for all visitors 18 and younger, with the intention of inspiring future art-lovers and providing an educational experience outside of the classroom. Additionally, a new “free zone” on the ground floor of the museum provides access to three stunning works of art, allowing guests to engage with the museum before they’ve even purchased a ticket.


Richard Serra’s steel sculptural piece “˜Sequence’ (the first piece installed in the new SFMOMA), Alexander Calder’s 26-foot-wide mobile, a teaser to his works found on the fourth floor, and Sol LeWitt’s “˜Wall Drawing 895: Loopy Doopy (white and blue)’ in The Helen and Charles Schwab Hall can all be enjoyed gratis.

San Francisco MOMA
An up close look at the interesting textures used in the newly designed SFMOMA © Photo by Henrik Kam, Courtesy of SFMOMA

San Francisco’s accessible cultural hub


Located at the heart of downtown San Francisco, SFMOMA is easily accessible in many ways. The museum is just two blocks from the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station, connecting to San Francisco International Airport and other parts of the city. The new Trans Bay Center transportation hub is also just a few short blocks away.


For more on the exciting new developments at SFMOMA, visit


Virgin Atlantic operates direct flights to San Francisco from London Heathrow, making it easy to book your next cultural Bay Area outing.


What are you most excited to experience at the new San Francisco MOMA? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.


Written by Lindsay Wright


Lindsay Wright

When she's not finding a way to sneak off on a trip, Lindsay Wright is scouting out the latest restaurants, local music clubs, hiking trails, and happenings in the San Francisco Bay Area. A true Californian at heart, she is constantly exploring and promoting the wealth of travel-worthy activities in the Golden State.

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