San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

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This San Francisco art museum was the first on the West Coast totally dedicated to modern and contemporary works of art. The museum’s collection is housed in an iconic modern building.

About the Museum

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Museum of Modern Art

Established in 1935, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA) was quite innovative for its time. Rivaled only by similar museums on the East Coast, it gave residents and visitors to the City by the Bay an opportunity to view art work that was created during the twentieth century, and it continues to be a showcase for the works of both established contemporary artists and those who are not yet well known.

Originally known as the San Francisco Museum of Art, the word “modern” was added in 1975, despite the fact that the museum already displayed mostly works of the twentieth century. For sixty years, it occupied the War Memorial Veterans Building in the city’s Civic Center. In 1995, it moved to its current location near the Yerba Buena Gardens, taking up quarters in a beautiful, modern building designed by Mario Botta, a Swiss architect known for his strong geometric designs.

The Building

Walkway and skylight, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Walkway across the skylight

The iconic building features an enormous circular skylight situated on a turret, which lights the enormous central atrium below. The turret, the building’s most noticeable feature, is decorated in alternating bands of polished and rough Canadian granite, which can also be found on the lower columns and the atrium floor.

The interior of the 225,000-square-foot (21,000 sq. m.) building features a magnificent grand staircase that takes visitors to all five stories and the galleries contained therein. Most of the galleries are lit by additional skylights, making it a bright and airy place to explore. An additional open rooftop gallery/garden, accessible via a glass enclosed walkway from the fifth floor galleries, opened in 2009.

The museum is set to expand in 2016 with the opening of a new, 235,000-square-foot building designed by Snøhetta, which will double the available exhibition space. The new building will also have a sculpture terrace as well as a vertical garden.

The Artwork

Flower Carrier, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Flower Carrier (Diego Rivera)

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art houses more than 26,000-piece collection of works including photographs, paintings, sculptures, architecture and design pieces, and media art. In addition to being used for permanent exhibits within the museum, many pieces are organized into traveling exhibits that are loaned to other art museums throughout the world.

The museum has numerous works by American artists, as well as a fine selection of Mexican and European Art. It is best known for its large collection of Expressionism, but it also includes many other styles such as Fauvism, Surrealism and visual art. Some of the most famous artists featured here include Jackson Pollock, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Diego Rivera, Henri Matisse and Andy Warhol.

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