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By the Bay

Art Feature

Writen by

Contributions by
Haley Shapley

Photos courtesy of

The City by the Bay has both world-class art museums and an endless array of galleries with emerging artists whose names are worth learning. When the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) reopened last year, it was with 10 extra stories, nearly triple the gallery space and free admission on the ground-floor level. Now the first museum on the West Coast dedicated to modern and contemporary art is also one of the world’s biggest. Here are a few reasons to make a trip to see it.

Architecture and Design 

Comprising works of modern and contemporary architecture, furniture, product and graphic design, SFMOMA’s architecture and design collection is widely considered one of the most significant in the United States. The collecting and programming strategy focuses on identifying and contextualizing transformative or game-changing design, especially software-integrated design and works that have changed the course of a discipline or introduced new social, economic or environmental relationships.

Media Arts 

The media arts collection encompasses a diverse range of time-based media artworks, including video, film, slide, sound, computer-based and online projects as well as live performances. Reflecting the Bay Area’s tradition of technological innovation and forward thinking, SFMOMA is a leader in the presentation, collection and preservation of time-based media works. Dedicated galleries for media arts, located on the 7th floor, accommodate collection-based presentations and new special exhibitions. 

Painting and Sculpture 

As a cornerstone of SFMOMA’s identity since it opened its doors in 1935, the Department of Painting and Sculpture consistently engages with the art and artists of our time. Whether by supporting artists at early stages of their careers or by organizing major retrospectives and thematic exhibitions, the department is committed to fostering new ideas and approaches to modern and contemporary art. The collection includes paintings, sculptures and works on paper created from 1900 to the present day.


One of the first institutions to recognize photography as an art form, SFMOMA holds more than 17,000 works of photography dating from the advent of the medium in 1839 to today’s digital images. The new Pritzker Center for Photography, made possible by the Lisa and John Pritzker Family Fund, offers 15,000 square feet of gallery, study and interpretive space—the largest space in any U.S. art museum permanently dedicated to photography.


1. German Art after 1960: The Fisher Collection exhibition at SFMOMA; © Henrik Kam

2. Alexander Calder’s Untitled (1963) on view in the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Atrium at SFMOMA; photo © Iwan Baan

3. Contemporary galleries at SFMOMA; © Iwan Baan


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