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Thursday, April 28, 2016

SFMOMA Will Reopen With an Enormous Gallery Devoted to Ellsworth Kelly (And More)

Posted By on Thu, Apr 28, 2016 at 6:00 PM

  • Eloise Porter

Almost three years since it closed for expansion, SFMOMA is oh-so close to reopening – reincarnated as a 10-story super-museum whose collection of paintings, photographs, sculpture, films, and other artwork rivals that of any modern art museum in the world. Ahead of its reopening on Saturday, May 14, SFMOMA gave a sneak preview to the media on Thursday, April 28, and entering the building was like entering the Taj Mahal for the first time: There’s so much to see and so much to take in, you feel overwhelmed at first – but gradually, space by space, you acclimate to its grandeur.

With almost 170,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor gallery space, which is nearly triple its former size, the new SFMOMA is opening with 19 special exhibitions and 1900 works on display.

Among U.S. art museums, its new Pritzker Center for Photography is the largest one that’s devoted to the exhibition, interpretation and study of photography. On the same third floor as the center is the museum’s new exhibit space devoted to work of the great sculptor Alexander Calder. The Calder gallery features work that is small and eye-level, and much bigger pieces at a nearby outdoor sculpture terrace, which has what is being called the largest public living wall in the United States. The green space has more than 19,000 plants, and when the doors are open that connect the sculpture garden to the Calder Gallery, Calder’s mobiles fly in the air, almost like magic.

“You can go back and forth freely from exterior art to interior art, and we think it’s important in museums that you have different perspectives of art,” said Craig Edward Dykers, a founding partner from Snohetta, the architectural firm that designed the new building, as he stood in the gallery on April 28. Referencing the giant Richard Serra sculpture called Sequence that’s now on the first floor, which artgoers can walk into and also see from the second floor, Dykers said: “The Richard Serra piece downstairs – you can see that from above, and it’s rare that you get that in a museum.”

The top three floors of the new SFMOMA are for the museum’s administrative office, so the highest floor for art-goers is the seventh, where the exhibit called “Film as Place” offers a series of films that are spellbindingly provocative. Among them: Beryl Korot’s 1974 work called Dachau, which is a four-monitor piece that visits the former Nazi concentration camp. Tourists flock to the place where death and killing were rampant, and where Korot records the sounds of people laughing, talking, and having “normal” lives in the face of such horrible history. The work is unforgettable, just as many of the new exhibits and galleries are throughout the museum. The fourth floor has a small gallery devoted to Diane Arbus’ work, which is close to galleries of exceptional paintings by Cy Twombly, Ellsworth Kelly, Wayne Thiebaud, and . . . the list goes on and on. Chuck Close’s work in on several floors, as is Gerhard Richter’s, as is Robert Rauschenberg’s.

Near the end of the preview, Sandra Phillips, SFMOMA’s Senior Curator of Photography, stood near the exhibit of photography and echoed a sentiment that was being uttered by every staff member: “It establishes us on a different level, and it’s extremely exciting.”

SFMOMA, 151 Third Street, reopens on Saturday, May 14, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 8:30 a.m.  415-357-4000 or
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