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San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

  • 151 3rd St. Map It
  • SoMa
  • Fodor's Choice

Published 07/06/2016

Fodor's Review

Founded in 1935, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art was the first museum on the West Coast dedicated to modern and contemporary art. In 2016, after a major three-year building expansion designed by Snøhetta, SFMOMA emerged as the largest modern art museum in the country and the revitalized anchor of the Yerba Buena arts district. Nearly tripling its gallery space over seven floors, the museum displays 1,900 of its 33,000-work collection, including a daunting 20-plus temporary exhibits. It can be overwhelming–-you could easily spend a day taking it all in, but allow at least two hours; three is better. The original 3rd Street entrance remains, but use the new entrance on Howard Street to experience Richard Serra’s gigantic Sequence, a gorgeous 15-foot-tall metal walk-through spiral. The museum’s expanded collection, showcased on floors three through seven, includes a heavy dose of new art from the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection, one of the greatest private collections

of modern and contemporary art in the world. Highlights include a deep collection of German abstract expressionist Gerhard Richter, American painter Ellsworth Kelly, and a tranquil gallery of Agnes Martin. Photography has long been one of the museum’s strong suits, and the third floor is dedicated to it. Also look for seminal works by Diego Rivera, Alexander Calder, Chuck Close, Matisse, and Picasso. More than one visitor has been fooled by Duane Hanson’s lifelike Policeman. Don’t miss the new second-floor sculpture terrace with its striking living wall. The first floor is free to the public and contains four large works, as well as the museum’s wonderful shop and expensive restaurant. If you don’t have hours, save the steep entrance fee and take a spin through here. Ticketing, information, and one gallery are on the second floor; save time and reserve timed tickets online. Take advantage of the variety of well-done audio tours, which focus on specific exhibits or subjects and use positioning technology to locate you in the museum and talk about what you’re seeing. Daily guided tours—a quick 25 minutes or 45 minutes—are an excellent way to get a foothold in this expansive space. And if you start to fade, grab a cup of Sightglass coffee at the café on the third floor; another café/restaurant is located by the fifth-floor sculpture garden. The monochromatic bathrooms—a different color on each floor—are surprising and fun.

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Sight Information


151 3rd St., San Francisco, California, 94103, USA

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Sight Details:

  • $25

Published 07/06/2016


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