Monday, May 16, 2016

San Francisco Social Diary

The dramatically expanded San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, presently the biggest modern and contemporary art museum in the U.S., opens to the public this month.
by Jeanne Lawrence

After a three-year transformation, when the San Francisco Museum of Art (SFMOMA) reopens on May 14, it will be the country’s largest modern and contemporary art museum. Of a series of pre-opening celebrations, the biggest by far was the Art Bash on April 29, 2016, which attracted more than 2,600 art lovers.

Attendees got a first look at the 1,900 objects from the museum’s massive collection. On display in nineteen distinctive shows, they include 270 works from the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection and 600 of the 3,000 works donated by patrons to the permanent collection during the Campaign for Art.
The new SFMOMA was designed by Norwegian firm Snøhetta.
SFMOMA Board President Bob Fisher, choreographer Alonzo King, and art collector and donor Doris Fisher.
Artists Brice Marden, Chuck Close, and Charles Ray at SFMOMA’s Art Bash party.
Bill Fisher (son of Doris and Don Fisher), artist Brice Marden, and SF Symphony President Sako Fisher.
Bob Fisher (brother of the late Don Fisher), art advisor Mary Zlot, Harold Zlot, Kay Woods, and Alan Mark.
Randi and Bob Fisher, son of Doris and Don Fisher.

The Norwegian firm Snøhetta oversaw the ambitious $305 million expansion and renovation. With the new 10-story building that includes seven floors of galleries, the museum doubled its size and tripled its exhibition space.  

The project was inspired when Doris Fisher and her husband, the late Donald Fisher (founders of The Gap), agreed to a l00-year loan to the museum of their 1,100-work collection, which required additional gallery space.

Now the museum sprawls over 235,000 square feet, including 170,000 square feet of gallery space, up from the previous 70,000. New York’s Whitney has only 50,000 square feet of gallery space and the city’s MoMA has 125,000, though the Diller Scofidio + Renfro expansion will bring the total number of gallery feet there to 175,000, slightly more than SFMOMA.
Alexander Calder’s Untitled (1963) on view in the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Atrium. Snøhetta’s 10-story addition is intended to mimic the fog and rippling water of the bay, though visitors have likened it to a marshmallow, a cruise ship, a supertanker and “a gigantic meringue with a hint of Ikea.”
The façade’s undulating white panels were manufactured locally by Kreysler and Associates. The Pat and Bill Wilson Sculpture Terrace features Alexander Calder’s sculpture Maquette for Trois Disques (1967).
There are outdoor terraces, and a courtyard is overlooked by a “green wall” of living plants.
A City Gallery at SFMOMA featuring Untitled by Joel Shapiro (1989). Although beautiful, the long stairs in the City Gallery seemed daunting, so even though I’m a hiker, I took the elevators.

This was the second time I’d attended a SFMOMA opening. I was present in January 1995, when the museum debuted its then-new 151 Third Street location in the South of Market district (SOMA), adjacent to Yerba Buena Gardens and the Moscone Convention Center.

It was a gutsy move, since the area then was known for its flophouses, old warehouses, and dilapidated buildings. The board privately funded the project with $63 million, and Swiss architect Mario Botta came up with the bold design that put the museum on the map. Today the area is prime property, with luxury hotels, galleries, and restaurant.
The new SFMOMA Snøhetta-designed building (2016) is visible behind the original red-brick Mario Botta-designed structure (1995).

A main new attraction is the world-famous, 1,100-work Fisher Collection, of which 270 pieces are on exhibition. “To have this collection live under our roof will immediately raise the level of this institution,” said Neil Benezra, Museum Director since 2002.

Gap founders Donald and Doris Fisher, who began collecting contemporary art in 1969, were named among the world’s top ten collectors by ARTnews in 1993. They acquired career-spanning works by such seminal artists as Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Serra, Gerhard Richter, Anselm Kiefer, Chuck Close, Claes Oldenburg, and Richard Diebenkorn.

The Fishers had initially planned to build their own museum in the Presidio area of San Francisco, but locals opposed the loss of any parkland. So in 2009, the couple entered into a partnership with SFMOMA to display the collection on a 100-year loan.

Ultimately, SFMOMA seems the better choice, as it is centrally located and accessible to more viewers than the Presidio location would have been. The Fisher Collection will be displayed along with pieces in the museum’s permanent collection, and once a decade, the museum will present a monographic display of the collection.
Artist Wayne Thiebaud in front of one of his paintings in the Fisher Collection. Artist Brice Marden in front of one of his pieces in the Fisher Collection.
At SFMOMA’s opening, 270 pieces from the Fisher Collection filled the fourth to the sixth floors.
Several celebrated artists have works displayed in one or more rooms of their own.
I heard visitors praise the curators for the brilliant installations and remark favorably on the fact that the large, spacious galleries give the works room to breathe.
One of the exhibits built upon the Fisher Collection was “Approaching American Abstraction.”
From the Fisher Collection: “Pop, Minimal, and Figurative Art.”
From the Fisher Collection: “German Art after 1960.”

The invitation read “Dress: Out of the Box Attire,” which allowed much room for interpretation, and we were warned to wear comfortable shoes for traversing the huge museum. When I arrived, the donor dinner with artists had just ended, so I had the good fortune of mingling with artists such as Chuck Close and Brice Marden.
Jeanne Lawrence with artist Chuck Close, whose works of art fill three galleries.
Before heading to the party, I was determined to see as much as possible ahead of the crowd. I started off with the Fisher collection, and walked briskly through gallery after gallery of blue-chip art. I was awed by the breadth of the collections and the vastness of the museum.

A friend registered 12,000 steps on her iPhone this night. It is impossible to cover the entire museum in one visit, so plan accordingly to avoid “museum fatigue.”


Be sure to visit the new John and Lisa Pritzker Center for Photography, now the country’s largest photography exhibition space, with a 15,000-square-foot series of galleries and collection spaces that contain nearly 18,000 objects spanning all 180 years of the medium’s history.

When I visit museums, I always like to see area artists who might be represented elsewhere minimally or not at all, so I considered the inaugural installation, Art of Northern California, a must-see. Other shows featuring local artists are planned.
The exhibit California and the West features landscape photographs, broadly defined, made between 1856 and 2014.
There’s also a dedicated Alexander Calder gallery, an adjacent outdoor sculpture terrace, a Calder hanging in the atrium, and 40 Calder sculptures in the Fisher Collection.

One of the standout pieces of the Fisher Collection is Richard Serra’s Sequence (2006), a 13-foot, 214-ton steel sculpture in one of the free public spaces.

The sculpture, visible from the street, replaces a fire station and business college. The massive piece had to be put in place first, and then walls and a ceiling were built around it.
Richard Serra’s monumental Sequence. Visitors can sit on the wood staircase opposite the sculpture to rest and contemplate the art.
During the Art Bash party, Richard Serra’s Sequence provided a stunning backdrop for a performance by Alonzo Kings LINES Ballet.

More than 2,600 privileged guests enjoyed a grand party underwritten by Christie’s Auction and Cadillac at the much-anticipated SFMOMA reopening, which certainly lived up to the high expectations.

At 7 p.m., the doors opened to an international roster of VIPS, artists, museum dignitaries, directors, curators, collectors, gallerists, designers, and art lovers. Although the crowd was huge, in such a vast open space there wasn’t the usual loud museum crush.

The atmosphere was convivial and lively, with people grouped in animated and extended conversation. It was obvious that many of the guests were part of an arts community whose members know one another.
During the Art Bash party, Richard Serra’s Sequence provided a stunning backdrop for a performance by Alonzo Kings LINES Ballet.
One of the interactive Art Bash activities was a photo booth that created an animated photo of guests.
The museum’s seven floors offered room after room of activities for the opening gala, including performances, live music, DJ sets—and art viewing, of course! The whirlwind of activity, plus the size of the place, made it necessary for us to use cell phones to keep track of friends.

Food and drink were provided by McCalls Catering, in half a dozen spots that designer Stanlee Gatti had dressed up. Lavish food stations and bars were set up on several floors. On the fifth floor terrace, the main buffet included roast chicken, beef, pasta, and pizza, plus ice cream.
The center of the action was Schwab Hall, where dancers performed on a stage above a long double-sided bar while guests sipped drinks and dined on innovative appetizers.
People raved about the “White Box” performance space, host to Rashaad Newsome’s multimedia performance, Five.
Vocalists and musicians accompanied the vogueing dancers, whose movement was turned into line drawings on a backdrop screen.

The party drew everyday art lovers, deep-pocketed patrons and VIPs, and board members.
Helen Schwab with husband Chuck Schwab, SFMOMA Board Chair and founder of the eponymous brokerage and banking company. SFMOMA curator Jill Sterrett with Board Vice-Chair Robin Wright.
The very fashionable Norah Stone, Eli and Edyth Broad, founders of LA’s Broad Museum (2015), and Norman Stone.
Lisa Pritzker, SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra, John Pritzker, and Ava Benezra.
Agnes Gund, President Emerita of NYC’s MoMA and Chair of MoMA PS1, with Klaus Biesenbach, Director of MoMA PS1. Trustee Christine Lamond, with her husband Peter Lamond, Silicon Valley venture capitalist.
Snøhetta’s Elaine Molinar, Snøhetta Co-founder Craig Dykers, artist Bill Viola and wife (and studio director) Kira Perov, and NYC gallerist Jim Cohan.
Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, owner of NYC’s Salon 94 gallery, with photographer Katy Grannan. Philippe Vergne, Director of the LA Museum of Contemporary Art, with his wife Sylvia Chivaratanond.
Artist Julia Cher with Nils Ohlsen, a director at the National Museum of Art in Oslo. Artist Takashi Murakami with Maria Blum.
Thaddaeus Ropac, a gallerist out of Paris and Austria, with Tracy O’Brian and Thaddeus Stauber. Trustee Becca Prowda, Daniel Lurie, and SFMOMA Board Vice-Chair Mimi Haas.
Maria Manetti Shrem and Jan Shrem, who funded the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at UC Davis, set to open this year, and Jeanne Lawrence.
Colin Bailey, Director of NYC’s Morgan Library and Museum. Rudolf Frieling, SFMOMA Curator of Media Arts.
Bill Fisher’s daughter Rose Fisher, with a friend. Bob Fisher’s daughter Emma Fisher, with Neal Benezra’s daughter Ava Benezra.
George Chammas, Trustee Dolly Chammas, 2016 Modern Ball Chair Gina Peterson, and Trustee Stuart Peterson.
Artist and actress Miranda July, Julia Bryan-Wilson, Trustee Alka Agrawal, and Ravin Agrawal.
Melissa Chiu, Director of DC’s Hirshhorn Museum, and Benjamin Genocchio, Director of NYC’s Armory Art Fair. OJ and Gary Shansby.
Anthony Allen; Lydia Yee, Chief Curator of London’s Whitechapel Gallery; and artist and composer Christian Marclay.
Whitney Museum Director Adam Weinberg, SFMOMA Curator Sandra Phillips, artist Tom Marioni, and Nick Shore.
Lisbeth Haas, SFMOMA Curator Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher, artist Chip Lord, artist Isabelle Sorrell, and Paul Klaus. Artists Janet Cardiff and Julie Mehretu.
Angela Chao and venture capitalist and Trustee Jim Breyer. Bill Lamkin and Trustee Janet Lamkin.
SFMOMA Curator Janet Bishop; Glenn Lowry, Director of NYC's Museum of Modern Art; and Susan Lowry.
Paula and Chuck Collins. Gallerist Matthew Marks and Artforum editor Jack Bankowsky.
Roger Evans with Aey Phanachet, founder of Thailand-based 100 Tonson Gallery. Quint Gallery Director Ben Strauss-Malcolm, with Cambria Marshall.
Gallerists Jeffrey Fraenkel and Frish Brandt, with Alan Mark.
Vaun Lennon, Devin Pence, Mo Anderson, and Josh Holdeman. Brian Burker and architecture writer Allison Arieff.
Art collectors Larry and Marilyn Fields. Loren McIntosh and artist Shirin Neshat.
Joni Binder Shwarts, Darius Himes of Christie’s, and author Natalie Baszile.
Architect Kulapat Yantrasast, interior designer Kelly Lasser, Jason Kaufmann, and Jan Rothschild.
Gary McGuire and Nathalie Delrue-McGuire. Artists Catherine Wagner and Maria Elena Gonzalez.
Gallerist Jessica Silverman, arts writer Sarah Thornton, and art critic Charles Desmarais.
Doug Biederbeck and Jennifer Biederbeck, of Sotheby’s. Art collectors Fred Giuffrida and Pamela Joyner.
SFMOMA supporter Helen Hilton Raiser, Joe Rosa, and Jennifer Raiser, Treasurer of the Burning Man Project.
Artist Travis Somerville with Nancy Carroll. SFMOMA Senior Curator Gary Garrels, with artist Anselm Kiefer.
Mike Dea, artist Takeshi Murata, Joan Dea, Lionel Conacher, and Francine Stegal.

The Bay is having a modern “Gold Rush,” with people flocking here once again to make their fortunes. The number of newly minted tech billionaires and the amount of their wealth is staggering.

While the cost of housing has skyrocketed for locals, on the plus side tech wealth has also created new jobs and opportunities in financial services, marketing, venture capital, and other areas that have attracted so many young, educated, and affluent newcomers.


Some international mega-galleries have already arrived and/or expanded to cater to this market. The John Berggruen Gallery, on Grant Street for 45 years, is moving to Hawthorne Street next door to the new Larry Gagosian gallery (opening May 18), one of 16 in his worldwide empire. New York’s Pace Gallery has also opened in Palo Alto, conveniently close to the Silicon Valley crowd.

Two art fairs have also been part of the recent art boom: Art Miami’s Art Silicon Valley/San Francisco, which debuted in 2014, and the three-year-old FOG Art+Design Fair a fundraiser for SFMOMA, both of which attracted the young, hip crowds the art world always seems to be courting.
Katie Paige, SFMOMA Trustee and one of the FOG Art+Design Fair founders, with her husband Matt Paige. FOG Art+Design Fair Co-Founder Stanlee Gatti, SFMOMA Trustee Becca Prowda, FOG Committee Member Kate Harbin Clammer, and Adam Clammer.
FOG Art+Design Fair Forum Chair Douglas Durkin, with Brian Saliman. Ellanor Notides, of Christie’s, with gallerist Gretchen Berggruen.
Many guests kept going until 1 a.m., way past the midnight ending time on the invite. But having just arrived from NYC, and still running on Eastern Time, I wasn’t among them!

In this civic-minded City by the Bay, support for the new SFMOMA has been overwhelming. The museum’s annual Modern Ball, May 12, has already sold out, as have opening day museum tickets.

In addition, in celebration of the May 14 Opening Day, neighborhood cultural institutions are throwing open their doors for free entry. Participants include the Contemporary Jewish Museum, Museum of the African Diaspora, Mexican Museum, Children’s Creativity Museum, California Historical Society, and others.

The SFMOMA transformation will no doubt continue to attract other cultural institutions and businesses, making the SOMA area even more vibrant. Most assuredly, the SFMOMA will become a national and global destination for culture and art lovers.

SFMOMA opens to the public on Saturday, May 14. Read more at
Photographs by Drew Altizer, Henrik Kam, Iwan Baan, Jon McNeal, Joe Fletcher, Snøhetta, and SFMOMA.

*Urbanite Jeanne Lawrence reports on lifestyle and travel from her homes in San Francisco, Shanghai, and New York, and wherever else she finds a good story.