On Saturday, May 14, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art will reopen after a three-year renovation and expansion. By tripling its gallery space, the SFMOMA is now home to the largest collection of modern artwork in the universe. This includes a floor entirely dedicated to photography, as well as a top-notch permanent collection featuring Picasso, Andy Warhol, Mondrian, and Frida Kahlo.
Here are seven reasons why every art lover should seriously consider paying homage to this world-renowned art hub.
1. Unlimited access to a private collection
The MOMA has partnered with the Gap’s founding family, Doris and the late Donald Fisher, to host and display the Fisher art collection for at least a century. The Fisher family started collecting artwork in the 1970s to decorate the Gap stores. But their passion for modern art soon intensified, and over the years they amassed a museum-quality private collection the size of a mall. Now, the Fisher Collection includes 1,100 works by 185 artists, including Andy Warhol, Richard Serra, and Roy Lichtenstein.
2. You’ll actually recognize the art
Henri Matisse’s Femme au chapeau and Mark Rothko’s No. 14 on the second floor. Jackson Pollock and Diane Arbus on the fourth floor. Andy Warhol’s portrait of Robert Mapplethorpe on the fifth floor. Jeff Koons and Cindy Sherman on the seventh floor. There’s serious star-power at every turn inside the SFMOMA. You’ll be glad you kind-of-sort-of-maybe remember that modern art class you took in college.
3. Art that literally comes to life
In typical San Francisco eco-friendly fashion, MOMA is green. No, literally. The museum has a new 30-foot garden wall featuring 19,442 plants of 37 different species, approximately 40 percent of which are native to California and the San Francisco Bay Area. The green wall was designed buy Habitat Horticulture as a stunning backdrop for some of SFMOMA’s outdoor sculptures. It’s also just one of the many great places inside the museum to take a selfie. And of course, the wall is metaphorically green, as well, using recycled-water from the museum’s HVAC system.
4. Photography at the forefront
The Pritzker Center for Photography on the third floor comprises 15,000 square feet, making it the largest exhibition and resource space permanently dedicated to showcasing photography of any museum in the U.S. It was one of the first American museums to recognize photography as an art form, and many of the first major artists associated with California were, in fact, photographers like Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange.
5. 1970s gay culture, decoded
The new SFMOMA is the only place where you’ll get too see Hal Fischer‘s Gay Semiotics up close and personal. Located on the third floor, Gay Semiotics is a black-and-white photography series depicting gay men from the Castro, each representing a very particular queer subculture from the 1970s: from leather daddies to “street fashion jocks.” Fischer added his own tongue-in-cheek commentary to decode all the signifiers of the time, like the different-colored handkerchiefs worn on the back pocket to express sexual preferences. Today, these photos are an anthropological look at how gay men sent subtle cues to one another back in a time way before dating apps, when there was no need for a color handkerchief that read “No Fats, No Femmes.”
6. Awesome app-enabled tours
Sorry, Scruff, there’s another app we’ll be glued to the next time we visit a museum. As part of the expansion, the museum created a new iPhone app for audio tours that rely on GPS to determine which artwork you are currently standing in front of. And the audio tour will actually wait for you because the app will know if you’re starring for too long at that male nude collage by Jess Collins again. These “phone-in-pocket audio journeys” were designed so that visitors will not get distracted by their iPhone while strolling through the galleries. You get to listen to commentary from unexpected museum guides like comedians, actors, and even members of the SF Giants (baseball) team. SFMOMA’s new app also works even after you step outside the museum doors. Take it around the nearby SoMa neighborhood to listen to insider commentary on street art, public installations, and historical sites in the area.
7. Tickets are not always required
The SFMOMA has promised to be completely free for anyone 18 and under for perpetuity. Yay, getting kids interested in the arts! In addition, the expanded SFMOMA has 45,000 square feet of public art space on the first and second floors that you can check out for free. These no-ticket-required areas feature five artworks including an installation by Richard Serra and a painting by Sol LeWitt.
The SFMOMA reopening is certainly a hot ticket, so try to schedule your visit and purchase tickets in advance on the museum’s website.
Oscar Raymundo is the creator of Confessions of a Boy Toy.