Strategic Additions to SFMOMA's Collection Support Plans to Expand the Museum and Transform the Visitor Experience
February 3, 2011—The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) today announced that it has received an unprecedented 195 promised gifts of art from nine leading Bay Area collectors who are leading a campaign to strengthen the museum’s collection. The pledges encompass major works by artists including Diane Arbus, Joseph Beuys, Robert Gober, Eva Hesse, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Bruce Nauman, Jackson Pollock, Ed Ruscha, Cindy Sherman, and David Smith, and span all media, from modern and contemporary painting, sculpture, photography, and design, to new media and conceptual-based works. Today’s announcement marks the public launch of SFMOMA’s Collections Campaign, which was initiated in January 2009 in conjunction with the museum’s 75th anniversary and will continue through the opening of its expanded facility in 2016. The campaign has been spearheaded by a committee chaired by longtime patrons Helen Schwab and Robin Wright, and its members include Trustees Carla Emil, Bob Fisher, Mimi Haas, David Mahoney, Chara Schreyer, Norman Stone, and Pat Wilson.
These exceptional works of art, together with the addition of the 1,100 works in the Fisher Collection announced in September 2009, reinforce SFMOMA’s position as one of the foremost collections of modern and contemporary art in the world. The works add depth to the collection in key areas including post-war German art and photography, and enhance its representation of artists and movements that SFMOMA has long championed through its exhibitions and collections programs. In announcing these leadership gifts, this committee of current and former Trustees will lead a multiyear, community-wide initiative to engage additional supporters in growing and strengthening the museum’s already outstanding collection.
This remarkable commitment allows SFMOMA to provide a fuller, more textured view of the art of our time, providing critical context for the museum’s pioneering exhibitions program and expanding understanding of its existing 27,000-piece collection. It also advances SFMOMA’s vision for the future. The museum is in the planning phase of a major expansion to be designed by the architecture firm Snøhetta that will increase public access to and enjoyment of its permanent collection, exhibitions, and educational programs. These works, as well as future gifts to SFMOMA’s Collections Campaign, will be the focus of a special exhibition and publication when the expansion is completed in 2016.
“Over the past eight decades, SFMOMA has grown by challenging notions of what art museums should present and collect, and by forging lasting relationships with artists and members of this community who share our dedication to bringing the most engaging art of our time to the public,” said SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra. “This first wave of promised gifts—from both longtime friends and a new generation of patrons—represents an extraordinary start to a multiyear campaign to expand and strengthen the art experiences we provide for the people of the Bay Area and audiences from around the world.”
Since its founding in 1935, SFMOMA has embraced groundbreaking ideas and shown a commitment to presenting and collecting artists at key moments in their careers, bringing greater attention to emerging talents or offering fresh looks at the work of established artists. Many of the artists represented in this suite of gifts, including Ellsworth Kelly, Bruce Nauman, and Robert Rauschenberg, have deep ties to SFMOMA and are represented in depth in the museum’s collection. Artists represented in this campaign who have been the subject of major exhibitions at SFMOMA include Matthew Barney, Olafur Eliasson, Eva Hesse, Helen Levitt, Brice Marden, and Luc Tuymans. The newly promised gifts reflect and will continue to support a fertile symbiosis between SFMOMA’s collections and exhibitions programs.
“San Francisco is a great art city and SFMOMA is an extraordinary resource for local and international audiences. Now, with the generous help of a band of collectors, the permanent collection will grow in step with SFMOMA’s planned building expansion. This initiative not only will make an immediate difference to our collection, but leads the way in a continued campaign for the enrichment of the museum. More than ever, SFMOMA will be a destination art experience,” said SFMOMA Trustee and Collections Campaign committee co-chair Robin Wright. Added campaign co-chair Helen Schwab, “Along with my fellow committee members, I am thrilled to add to SFMOMA’s exceptional collection. We look forward to engaging many more collectors in this campaign, so that together we will guarantee unparalleled art experiences here in San Francisco for future generations. I’d also like to acknowledge the great generosity of our committee members and the exceptional quality of the gifts selected by each donor.”
SFMOMA has benefitted from the generosity of visionary collectors throughout its history. Through gifts and bequests from donors like Harry and Mary Margaret Anderson, Albert Bender, Elise S. Haas, and Phyllis Wattis, SFMOMA has strengthened its collections and its service to the public. The standout 1990 Haas gift, Henri Matisse’s 1905 masterpiece Femme au chapeau, is SFMOMA’s most celebrated painting and a classic example of Fauvism in the collection. Early gifts of works by Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Rufino Tamayo established SFMOMA’s strength in Mexican Modernism, and a 1941 bequest of pictures by Ansel Adams and other Group f/64 members anchored the growing photography collection. In recent years, SFMOMA has secured outstanding works directly from the personal collections of artists including Vija Celmins, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Ellsworth Kelly, Brice Marden, Robert Rauschenberg, and Cy Twombly.
In 2009 the museum announced a groundbreaking partnership with Doris and Don Fisher that will bring the Fisher Collection—one of the world’s leading collections of contemporary art—to SFMOMA. The collection includes some 1,100 works by leading artists including Alexander Calder, Chuck Close, Willem de Kooning, Richard Diebenkorn, Anselm Kiefer, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Brice Marden, Agnes Martin, Gerhard Richter, Richard Serra, Cy Twombly, and Andy Warhol, among many others. Upon completion of SFMOMA’s expansion, works from the Fisher Collection will be on display in dedicated galleries and will also be interwoven with SFMOMA’s modern and contemporary holdings.
About SFMOMA’s Expansion
SFMOMA’s expansion, designed by Snøhetta, will provide a magnetic, accessible new space to engage the museum’s growing audiences, showcase its outstanding permanent collection, and embrace the surrounding South of Market neighborhood. The project will encompass enhancements to the current building and a new wing extending from the rear of the museum to Howard Street, creating galleries that will merge seamlessly with the existing building. The expansion will provide more than 100,000 additional square feet of gallery space, greatly enhancing and expanding the presentation of art in all areas of the museum’s collections—painting and sculpture, photography, architecture and design, media arts—and its educational programs. The expansion will also enhance the museum’s administrative and support spaces, providing larger and more advanced conservation facilities and an expanded library.
SFMOMA last completed a major expansion in 1995, when it moved from the small rented space in the War Memorial Building across from San Francisco’s City Hall into the celebrated brick-front building on Third Street. The move catalyzed incredible growth in the museum’s audiences, educational programs, exhibitions, and collections. Over the past 15 years, SFMOMA’s annual average attendance has more than tripled to some 700,000, membership has grown to 40,000, and the collection has more than doubled to 27,000 works. SFMOMA has also developed one of strongest exhibition programs in the world, organizing groundbreaking shows that travel internationally, including recent surveys of the work of Diane Arbus, Olafur Eliasson, Eva Hesse, Frida Kahlo, William Kentridge, Sol LeWitt, Richard Tuttle, and Jeff Wall.