The expanded SFMOMA is a mind-boggling feat, tripled in size to accommodate a sprawling collection of modern masterworks and 19 concurrent exhibitions over 10 floors – but, then again, SFMOMA has defied limits ever since its 1935 founding. The museum was a visionary early investor in then-emerging art forms, including photography, installations, video, performance art, and (as befits a global technology hub) digital art and industrial design. Even during the Depression, SFMOMA envisioned a world of vivid possibilities, starting in San Francisco.
The collection has outgrown its home twice since, and the 2016 expansion offers free access to ground-floor galleries and a dramatic entrance via Richard Serra's mammoth rusty steel maze – a truly inspired alternative to shrubbery. Start on the 3rd floor with SFMOMA’s standout photography collection, featuring great postwar Japanese photographers Shomei Tomatsu and Daido Moriyama alongside pioneering West Coast photographers Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Dorothea Lange, Pirkle Jones and Larry Sultan. Meditate amid sunwashed, subtle tone-on-tone paintings in the Agnes Martin room surrounded by 4th-floor Minimalists and get an eyeful of Warhol's silver Elvis in Pop Art on the 5th floor before enjoying a coffee in the rooftop sculpture garden.
The 6th floor holds poignant video art by Shirin Neshat and William Kentridge, while the top floor reaches peak art freak with experimental works by the likes of SF's own Matthew Barney, who launched his career at SFMOMA with poetic performances involving industrial quantities of Vaseline. Head down via the atrium to see how SFMOMA began, with colorful local characters admiring equally colorful characters by Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and Henri Matisse. Start your own collection of original designs and art catalogs at the SFMOMA shop and make a meal of contemporary culinary masterpieces recreated by In Situ chef Corey Lee.