With its newly acquired collection of Richters and Warhols and a multi-million dollar renovation, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is aiming to join the top rank of galleries. Ahead of its reopening, Paul Laity takes a tour
For years, workers at the San Francisco HQ of the clothing chain Gap walked past an enormous piece of fruit. At the entrance to the company cafeteria sat the 8ft-high Geometric Apple Core by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen the Gapple, a classic of contemporary art. Though held in great affection, however, the sculpture was, in those offices, rather commonplace. Art was everywhere, including a 1963 silver Triple Elvis by Andy Warhol, a roomful of monumental Chuck Close portraits and an array of dazzling Ellsworth Kelly abstracts.
Gaps founders, Donald and Doris Fisher, used their millions from the 1970s onwards to amass 1,100 works of prestigious mid and late 20th-century art including 21 Warhols, 23 works by Gerhard Richter and 45 Alexander Calder mobiles. It was recognised in art circles as a hugely significant collection, but, outside their firm, was kept largely under wraps.
All that changed in 2009 when, just two days before Don died, a longstanding agreement (unusual in the art world) was reached to show the collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for at least 100 years. It was a momentous occasion for SFMOMA, which began to plan a major expansion to accommodate the new treasures. Having been closed for nearly three years for the redevelopment, the museum now doubled in size, with three times the gallery space reopens on 14 May.