Usually, when a museum closes for a renovation or an expansion, as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is doing June 2, museum officials find another space and display a portion of the collection.
That's not what they're doing at MOMA.
"We said, 'Let's not just find a piece of real estate and inhabit it,'" said director Neal Benezra. "'Let's get out into the world.'"
The museum is partnering with many others, including the Jewish Contemporary Museum; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; the Asian Art Museum; and the Museum of the African Diaspora, to exhibit works from SFMOMA's holdings. They will also have site-specific and outdoor installations, including The Los Altos Project, a multi-site exhibit with works by contemporary artists about this formerly agricultural area, and Mark di Suvero at Crissy Field, curated by Benezra. It features eight of di Suvero's large- scale steel sculptures, the largest display of the artist's work shown on the West Coast.
Janet Bishop, the curator of painting and sculpture for the museum, says the Golden Gate Bridge, in view of where di Suvero's sculptures will be displayed, has special significance for the artist.
"He immigrated at seven from Shanghai to San Francisco," she said. "He sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge, and it had a lasting effect on him and was an inspiration throughout his life."
In June, SFMOMA will present its first off-site exhibition co-organized with the Contemporary Jewish Museum, titled "Beyond Belief: 100 Years of the Spiritual in Modern Art." More than 60 works, by artists ranging from Mark Rothko and Paul Klee to contemporary artists Nam June Paik, and Teresita Fernández explore the connections between spirituality and modern art.
That will be followed in November with "Flesh and Metal: Body and Machine in Early 20th-Century Art" at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University. Bishop says it examines how artists such as Giorgio di Chirico, Marcel Duchamp, and Man Ray reconciled apparent opposites such as the impersonal world of machines and the human psyche.
Next winter's exhibition on view at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, "South Africa Public Intimacy: Art and Social Life in South Africa," takes its inspiration from SFMOMA's growing collection of photography and focuses on relationships and encounters in that country.
"Gorgeous," which is opening at the Asian Art Museum next June, will consider beauty in Asian and Western art. Bishop showed slides of Jeff Koons' famous sculpture, Michael Jackson and Bubbles of the singer and his chimp next to a painting of the Hindu God Krishna as an infant and a Mark Rothko juxtaposed with a Tibetan mandala as examples of what they hope will provoke dialogue about what is gorgeous.
"They suggest a certain resonance," Bishop said, gesturing at the Rothko and the mandala.
Benezra patiently responded to questions about some details during the expansion. Yes, the café and coffee shop will be closed. The store as well, but they have found a new space nearby. The 40,000 or so members will have their memberships honored at partner museums.
When the new museum opens in 2016, it will have seven levels, more free-to the-public space, expanded education program, and more galleries for live performances and large-scale works of art.
This shows SFMOMA's strong commitment to civic engagement, Benezra says.
"We want to expand corridors out into the community," he said. "We want to be an experience as well as a real resource."