The biggest museum fundraising campaign in San Francisco history is nearing its $610 million goal two years before the opening of a new wing that will more than double the space for artworks by Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko and David Hockney.
About $570 million, or 94 percent, has been raised by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for its 235,000-square-foot (21,800-square-meter) expansion and to add $245 million to the museum’s endowment. The $305 million wing designed by the Snohetta architecture firm is rising behind SFMOMA’s current home, opened two decades ago in the technology-heavy South of Market area, or SOMA.
“In 1995, we were the pioneers when SOMA was pretty run-down, and the tech boom followed us,” Neal Benezra, the museum’s director, said June 20 in a presentation at Bloomberg LP’s San Francisco offices. “Our expansion will solidify the neighborhood as a cultural hub.”
The museum’s main entrance will shift to Howard Street from Third Street in a slender 10-story addition that features more glass and outdoor terraces, Benezra said. SFMOMA’s current holdings will be joined in the larger quarters by the 1,100-piece collection of Doris and Donald Fisher, founders of San Francisco-based Gap Inc., that include works by Richard Serra, Alexander Calder, Roy Lichtenstein, Willem de Kooning, Anselm Kiefer and Chuck Close, among others.
The San Francisco museum, among the oldest institutions devoted to modern and contemporary art, was founded in 1935 and originally housed in the upper floors of a multi-use building near City Hall. Moving to the scruffy SOMA district gave it a separate identity and set the stage for attendance growth and bequests from local donors, including Prentice and Paul Sack’s photographic collection and seven works by Frank Stella from Harry and Mary Anderson, Benezra said.
“We want this museum to mean much more to many more people, but we simply don’t have enough space,” Benezra said in the presentation. The expansion project is being completed at “one of those moments when the stars align and everything comes true,” he said.
In the two decades since the museum moved to SOMA, the neighborhood has been transformed by new luxury hotels and residences and an expanding Moscone Center convention hall. Demand from technology startups has cut office vacancy rates to the lowest in the city, with companies such as Twitter Inc. moving to nearby districts with available space.
The Fisher collection will be displayed along with SFMOMA’s current holdings in galleries that will be comparable in size to those at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The concentration of contemporary works in San Francisco may even surpass the museum’s East Coast counterpart, Benezra said.
“We think we’re going to be great from 1960 on,” he said.