Site Imitates Art

Finding parallels between our expansion and our collection

by Jessica Bullock

Yellow and orange squares next to a yellow hallway receding into perspective

Left: Josef Albers, Homage to the Square: Confident, 1954; Collection SFMOMA, gift of Mrs. Anni Albers and the Josef Albers Foundation; © The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; photo: Ben Blackwell. Right: SFMOMA expansion; photo: © Henrik Kam

From the moment we saw Snøhetta’s vision for our expanded building, we knew that the latest addition to our home would be more than a vessel for housing the masterpieces in our collection — it would be a work of art in its own right, just like the Botta building.

Red Clyfford Still painting next to a red wall

Left: Clyfford Still, Untitled, 1954; Collection SFMOMA, gift of the artist; © City and County Denver. Right: SFMOMA expansion; photo: © Henrik Kam

We also knew that we wanted to preserve the momentous process of building this new and very site-specific work. So we installed a camera overlooking the Howard Street end of the site for viewers to see each day’s progress and create their very own time-lapse movie. We also brought the architectural photographer Henrik Kam on board to roam the site, inside and out.

Red, yellow, and white grid next to a terrace under constructions

Left: Piet Mondrian, New York City 2 [unfinished, formerly New York City III], 1941; Collection SFMOMA, purchase through a gift of Phyllis Wattis. SFMOMA expansion; photo: © Henrik Kam

Kam’s photographs capture the initial destruction and ensuing construction of the site, and provide a preview of what’s to come in 2016 in some unexpected ways. From a bright tangle of wires that call to mind Julie Mehretu’s Stadia I (2004)

Julie Mehretu's painting of graphic black lines and colorful geometric shapes next to a construction image of colorful cords

Left: Julie Mehretu, Stadia I, 2004; Collection SFMOMA, Partial gift of Dominique Lévy and purchase through the Accessions Committee Fund with the additional support of Gay-Lynn and Robert Blanding, Jean and James E. Douglas, Jr., Ann and Robert S. Fisher, and Pat and Bill Wilson; © Julie Mehretu; photo: Ben Blackwell. Right: SFMOMA expansion; photo:© Henrik Kam

to a dreamy reflection on the facade that evokes Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park #54 (1972), many of Kam’s photographs conjure works from our collection, and we couldn’t resist the impulse to share a few of our favorite “work sites of art.”

Richard Diebenkorn painting next to a corner shot of SFMOMA's new rippling white facade

Left: Richard Diebenkorn, Ocean Park #54, 1972; Collection SFMOMA, gift of Friends of Gerald Nordland; © Richard Diebenkorn Foundation; photo: Ben Blackwell. Right: SFMOMA expansion; photo: © Henrik Kam


Jessica Bullock

Jessica Bullock is the former assistant managing editor at SFMOMA.

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