Thursday, May 30, 2013
Official Groundbreaking at SFMOMA
Wednesday morning, in a back alley downtown behind SFMOMA, there was an official groundbreaking ceremony for the huge new addition to the museum which will close down the current building for the next three years.
The ceremony was attended by press, a few politicians, architects and builders, along with museum trustees such as Doris Fisher above center and Cissy Swig posing in an SFMOMA hardhat below. The grande dames of San Francisco seemed to be having a marvelous time at the short ceremony, and even the weather cooperated.
It was also interesting seeing who was not there, namely the two powerbrokers Dede Wilsey and Willie Brown, Jr.
The museum sits in Supervisor Jane Kim's District 6, and she was looking particularly glamorous during her short speech praising the museum for its proposed new policy upon its reopening of free admission for youth under the age of 18. "I grew up in New York where going to museums frequently was a part of everyone's childhood."
There was a strange moment when the speeches started, and the VIPs sat down in about two dozen chairs at the front while everybody else remained standing. Kim had taken a seat that had been reserved for her, but Charlotte Schultz (above center with JD Beltran on the left) did not seem to be one of the official VIPs and did not have a seat. This was something I have never seen before, since Schultz usually seems to be running every detail at every event she attends. From what I could make out, it looked like she was there to babysit Mayor Ed Lee for the morning. Anyway, Supervisor Kim had set her purse down on the seat next to her, and Charlotte finally squeezed in as if she was a Muni passenger trying to get the last empty seat that somebody was hogging with their belongings. Kim eventually picked up the purse and they politely smiled at each other.
Charles Schwab, another San Francisco self-made Republican billionaire like the late Don Fisher whose collection is the impetus for this museum expansion, gave a self-deprecating speech that started with a joke about the half-destroyed fire station at the construction site being the latest modern art acquisition for the institution. He then went on to praise Mayor Ed Lee below for being a visionary "who can get things done."
It would have been more truthful, though slightly less politic, to say Mayor Lee is somebody who enables billionaires to "get things done," but it was not that kind of event. Lee gave his usual stumbling, bland mumblecore speech, and told us how excited he was about going to Lowell High School's graduation later that day where he was going to tell them all about the free admission for youth.
Craig Stryker above, the Norwegian architect from Snøhetta that is designing the new building, was smart and charming in person, but his public speech started with an unfortunate analogy. He told us that creating a large public building was like a birth, except there were many partners, so it was a polyamorous situation which could get a bit sticky. It was very funny watching everyone try not to show their discomfort as his analogy only got worse as it went along.
A small contingent of schoolchildren from Bessie Carmichael Elementary School nearby were brought to the groundbreaking site, and after a countdown, pushed the button that set off a spectacular confetti bomb.
Starting today, SFMOMA is free of charge to the public for the last four days of the old building's existence. There are performances, special displays, and a whole host of activities planned for this weekend, including an all-night party on Saturday night on the rooftop. Click here for a schedule. It should be a lot of fun.