San Francisco Art Museum Tells Plans for New Structure

Times Art Critic

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art announced plans for a new $70-million museum structure at a press conference Wednesday morning attended by mayor Art Agnos, museum director John R. Lane and other officials.

The museum, a pioneering institution in the field, will construct a new building of about 160,000 square feet on a lot south of Market Street on Third Street between Mission and Howard streets. Plans call for completion in 1993.

The new structure will be a near-neighbor to a massive $1.5-billion redevelopment project called Yerba Buena Gardens being carried out by the city to revitalize a district near the convention center that has been mainly parking lots.

The recent rise of Los Angeles as a major art center was clearly on the museum's mind when Lane commented after the announcement: "This museum certainly had its great early days, but with the emergence of Los Angeles as a very important center for modern and contemporary art, we have felt the competition--and the need to have a physical facility that can complement L.A. and compete with it."

The south-of-Market site was targeted through an agreement between the museum, the redevelopment agency and the development firm of Olympia & York. Land is being provided by the agency and developer, but the rest of the museum will be privately funded.

According to a museum spokesman, more than half the $70 million has already been pledged by its board of trustees, even though the fund-raising drive has not yet been publicly launched.

Neither has an architect been selected for the project, although candidates have been winnowed to a short list including Los Angeles' Frank Gehry as well as Arata Isozaki, the Japanese architect who designed Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art.

Other candidates include the firm of Charles Moore, William Turnbull and Associates of San Francisco and Austin, Tex.; Switzerland's Mario Botta; Chicago's Hammond, Beby and Babka; and another Japanese firm, Tadao Ando and Associates.

The museum has felt progressively pinched in its upstairs quarters in the War Memorial Building on Van Ness Avenue across from San Francisco's picturesque city hall, where it has been located since 1935.

In addition to exhibit space, the planned facility will house an auditorium, workshop space, a library, restaurant and bookshop.

The San Francisco museum was an early California collector of such once-radical artists as Matisse, Pollock, de Kooning and Gorky. Among its treasures today is a distinguished group of works donated by Abstract Expressionist Clyfford Still.

Until last year's opening of Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art and the modern and contemporary wing of the County Museum of Art, San Francisco's museum tended to function as the state's flagship for modern and contemporary art.

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