San Francisco Museums

by Admin on 10/01/2010

In the past few years, I’ve become aware of the major leaps and bounds taken by the local museums of San Francisco. In 2008, only three major museums: the Legion, the de Young, and the SFMOMA existed in this historic, grand metropolis. Since then, I have been impressed with the major changes, both physical and intangible, taking place here in San Francisco.

In the last few years, the exponential growth the museums and their significance in the national museum map has been going quicker than in previous years (despite the economy). In 2008, I was part of the new staff at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Not only did it bring new tourism interest to San Francisco, with architect Daniel Libeskind‘s design, the major new cultural interest in the Jewish community, and the novel exhibitions it showed in its first year, like Chagall and the Russian Jewish Theatre and the artwork of William Stieg, it also beautified the city with the renovation of the 1906 power substation and the Jesse Street/ Yerba Buena area.  

In 2009, while perusing the massive Cartier exhibit at the Legion of Honor, it was apparent that while the Legion had always thought-provoking, high interest exhibits during the summer, the museum was moving swiftly into an exciting direction. Beginning with the Women Impressionists exhibit, then exhibits Cartier and Faberge, Tiffany, and Lalique the museum worked more closely with European museums and many private collections to create exciting exhibits of works that had rarely been shown here in San Francisco, perhaps the Northwest. Many may say this had started as far back as the Monet in Normandy exhibit a few years past, but while unique and intriguing, the exhibit’s size and its work was not more impressive than the museum’s own permanent collection of Monet. Needless to say, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco cilmaxed with achieving the status of the only museum in the United States to be showing both exhibits from the travelling Musee D’Orsay collection, both the Impressionists and the Post-Impressionists. It is hardly surprising now the de Young Museum is the 5th most visited museum in the US.

It isn’t necessary here to explain about San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s massively important, highly publicised acquistion of the Fisher Collection in 2009, and finalized this year. In my opinion, it actually might have been nice to have another modern art museum somewhere else in the city. It’s always surprised me San Francisco has only one major modern and contemporary art museum.  But, now that the Fisher Collection has doubled the size of the SFMOMA collection, so many changes can now take place there to contend with other nationally significant modern art museums. A major Swedish architect company, Snohetta has been chosen for the museum’s new wing which will add more modern visual appeal to the SF downtown area, even an SF firehouse will gain better resources and location because of the acquistion.

With so many changes in 3-4 years, it is exciting to wonder what more San Francisco Bay Area can look forward to. The Mexican Museum in San Francisco is also planning to move from the current Fort Mason center to a Yerba Buena location at 706 Mission with the other museums, but plans are still in its genesis stages, and unfortunately have been for years with little progress. Recently this year, Jonathan Yorba was chosen as the new director, which may help to further the plans to move the museum.