Luminaries of the art and architecture worlds descended on San Francisco’s South of Market district Friday night to celebrate the opening of the refurbished San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. They were there to peer up at the dramatic new $305 million Snohetta-designed space, and to get the first walk-through of the Fisher Collection displayed over three floors. Five years ago Gap founders Don and Doris Fisher donated 1,100 major artworks by artists including Gerhardt Richter and Agnes Martin and inspired the new museum addition.
“This new SFMOMA certainly is a game-changer in the U.S. and global museum landscape,” said Andrea Fiuczynski, chairman of Sotheby’s Americas as she lingered in the Agnes Martin Gallery.
The vast new extension, clad in undulating pale grey fiber-enforced polymer panels, triples the museum’s size to 175,000 square feet, 40 percent larger than the Museum of Modern Art in New York. At night it looks like an abstract canvas-wrapped Christo art piece that swoops up among gritty century-old warehouses.
“The Snohetta design is brilliant,” said architect David Darling looking out at the new cityscape. “To reinvent an art museum in a very tight urban setting was a tall order. This is a new paradigm.”
Artists Brice Marden, Shirin Neshat, and Chuck Close posed for photos with Sako and Bill Fisher. Gallerists Jeffrey Fraenkel and Frish Brandt took friends on a tour of the portfolio of the Diane Arbus works they donated. Architect Abigail Turin strolled through the Cy Twombly gallery while almost-centenarian Wayne Thiebaud strode purposefully to view his portraits and landscapes in the contemporary California galleries. Nearby, museum director Neal Benezra beamed as he chatted to Doris Fisher.
“I wanted a light-filled, transparent new building that would welcome a very diverse range of art lovers,” he said. “Art museums are no longer like a bank, a repository for art. Now they’re about the visitor experience, surprise, delight and education. We are ready to welcome the world.”
SFMOMA opens May 14.