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San Francisco's Top 10 : San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (part 1)

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Founded in 1935, the SFMOMA is the only museum in the western US devoted to collecting and exhibiting the full scope of modern and contemporary art, and second only to New York’s MOMA. The landmark museum moved to its wonderful Post-Modernist setting in the burgeoning South of Market neighborhood (see The Rise of South of Market) in January 1995. Its permanent collections include major works by the most important 20th-century European and American artists, extensive photography holdings, and challenging multimedia installations.

  • 151 3rd St

  • 415 357 4000

  • www.sfmoma.org

  • Open 11am–5:45pm Fri–Tue, 11am–8:45pm Thu (from 10am in summer); closed Wed

  • Dis. access

  • Adm $12.50 adult, $8 senior, $7 student with ID; audio tour price varies; free first Tue of month


Museum Guide

The Museum Store, the Caffè Museo, and the Wattis Theater are all on the first floor. The second floor is the main event for most visitors, with paintings and sculptures from the permanent collection, as well as exhibits relating to architecture and design. The third floor focuses on photography and other works on paper, while media arts are on the fourth. Special and temporary exhibitions may be displayed on any of the floors.


Museum façade

The museum’s Caffè Museo (415) 357-4500) features Mediterranean-style snacks and sandwiches.


Free gallery tours are offered hourly from 11:30am–2:30pm, and at 6:15pm and 7:15pm on Thursdays. Meet in the Atrium.


The SFMOMA regularly rotates its collections so not all the artworks mentioned may be on display at the time of your visit.


Kids love the Koret Visitor Education Center, on the second floor, where there are multimedia displays and art activities.




Top 10 Features
  1. Exterior

    The building was designed by renowned Swiss architect Mario Botta. The 125-ft (38-m) truncated cylindrical turret is decorated with Art Deco-style chevrons.

  2. Atrium

    The atrium is illuminated by the central skylight and takes in the full height of the building. It acts as a dramatic entrance and public space, hung with two vast, brightly engaging Sol Le Witt geometric paintings.

  3. 20th-Century European Artists

    These works are located on the second floor. Here you will find important works by Matisse, Miró, Degas, Picasso, Braque, Klee, Mondrian, Duchamp, Dalí, and Magritte, among others.

  4. 20th-Century American Artists

    US artists included here are O’Keeffe, de Kooning, Pollock, Warhol, and Kline. One of the perennial hits of the collection is Jeff Koons’ hilarious ceramic sculpture Michael Jackson and Bubbles (1988).

  5. Bay Area Artists

    San Francisco Bay Area artists are also represented on the second floor, and include Richard Diebenkorn, Wayne Theibaud, and Clyfford Still, all with international reputations. Bay Area figurative painters in the collection include Elmer Bishoff, and David Park. Most noteworthy, perhaps, is California Artist (1982), a humorous sculptural self-portrait by Robert Arneson in glazed stoneware.

  6. Latin American Artists

    Latin American art is represented most forcefully by the work of muralist Diego Rivera and his wife Frida Kahlo. Other Latin American painters represented include Wilfredo Lam, and Joaquín Torres-Garcia.

  7. Photography

    One of the museum’s strengths, rotating exhibits may include masterpieces by Man Ray and Ansel Adams, as well as more avant-garde works.

  8. Electronic & Digital Art

    Established in 1987, the collection includes multimedia works, moving-image pieces, and video installations by such artists as Brian Eno, Bill Viola, Dara Birnbaum, Matthew Barney, and Nam June Paik.

  9. Temporary Exhibitions

    The museum’s temporary exhibition spaces may include educational programs, interactive programs, or retrospective exhibitions of the work of contemporary artists such as Yoko Ono and Eva Hess, or the photography of Victorian author Lewis Carroll.

  10. The Catwalk

    Suspended high up inside the cylindrical turret, visitors can walk the see-through 35-ft (10-m) steel bridge that cuts across the skylight, providing dramatic views of the Sculpture Terrace and the Atrium.

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