When I read about the May reopening of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art after a $305-million expansion, I headed north to check it out. I found the stunning new building by Norwegian architectural firm Snohetta, which nearly tripled the museum’s space, as impressive as the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection that it houses. The founders of the Gap donated 1,100 artworks by 185 superstars such as Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder and Ellsworth Kelly; 260 are now on view. There’s more: six sculpture terraces, one with the largest “living wall” of plants in the U.S.; 45,000 square feet of art-filled public space, a gallery showcasing Diane Arbus photos; and iconic paintings by Matisse, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo from the museum’s original collection. So is a visit to the new SFMOMA [151 Third St.; (415) 357-4000] alone worth a trip to San Francisco? If you are crazy about modern art and architecture, definitely. The tab: $495 for two nights in a hotel, $50 for museum admission; $300 for meals; $75 for ground transportation; plus airfare and taxes.
Because my husband, Paul, and I were traveling to San Francisco to visit its newest landmark, I booked a room at one of its most venerable: The city’s first luxury hotel, the Palace [2 New Montgomery St.; (415) 512-1111], which was established in 1875 and extensively renovated in 2015. It is also only a five-minute walk from SFMOMA. Our spacious room was handsomely furnished, and we marveled at the grandeur of the marble-columned, glass-dome-ceilinged Garden Court.
We enjoyed organic salads with a city view in SFMOMA’s indoor/outdoor Café 5, and dinner at Foreign Cinema [2534 Mission St.; (415) 648-7600], known for serving eclectic dishes such as crispy cardamom fried chicken and screening vintage movies in the courtyard. The Palace’s oak-paneled Pied Piper Bar, named for its luminous 1909 Maxfield Parrish painting, was the ideal spot for a nightcap.
“Sequence,” Richard Serra’s massive steel installation, is meant to be experienced, not just admired. And what fun it is to explore this 213-ton sculpture that resembles two giant interconnected snails, brushing your fingers along the tall, curving walls that lead, maze-like, to hidden inner sanctums. Spoiler alert: Winding through it, you may feel a touch of vertigo.
The lesson learned
With seven floors, only three elevators and no escalators, we found ourselves climbing more stairs than we had planned. Luckily, the stairways lead you through the galleries on one floor before continuing on to the next, so you don’t miss seeing any of the marvelous art.