After a four-year renovation, the La Jolla location of Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (mcasd.org) is back—boasting four times the gallery space, scenic public areas and brand-new exhibits. Here, Kathryn Kanjo, The David C. Copley Director and CEO of MCASD, discusses the expanded offerings and how the new facility honors its coastal setting.
PHOTO BY STACY KECK FOR MCASD
What prompted the renovation of the La Jolla campus, and what were your goals for it? The decision to engage Selldorf Architects followed a comprehensive search that began in 2013 when a future planning committee spearheaded by Paul Jacobs was formed to investigate expanding the museum’s La Jolla property to include more gallery space. In addition to providing significantly more gallery space for the collection, the new design creates a more welcoming and clear entry and gives greater coherence to the site, enhancing the museum’s connection to its spectacular coastal setting. Many of the new galleries have high ceilings, and the former Sherwood Auditorium has also been repurposed as a 7,000-square-foot gallery with 20-foot ceilings. Skylights and vertical windows bring the site’s distinct natural light and coastal views into the new spaces.
What did the $105 million renovation entail? How did the space expand and transform? The new design includes the renovation of 28,000 square feet of existing spaces as well as the addition of 46,400 square feet of new spaces to MCASD, effectively doubling the museum’s existing square footage and bringing the new total size of the museum to 104,400 square feet.
Niki de Saint Phalle, “Madame, or Green Nana with Black Bag” (1968). PHOTO BY ANDRÉ MORAIN/COURTESY OF THE NIKI CHARITABLE ART FOUNDATION, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED/ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NEW YORK/ADAGP, PARIS
How does the new building reflect your coastal environment? We offer art with a view and art with a point of view. We celebrate our site’s physical glory and regional attributes, and the sensibilities that have forged our current era. MCASD focuses on the art of our time and place. The expanded museum will offer four times the current gallery space, two levels of light-filled galleries, a public park and new seaside terraces offering dramatic views of the Pacific coast.
An aerial view of the revamped La Jolla location of Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego PHOTO: BY BREADTRUCK FILM FOR MCASD
What are some highlights from the permanent collection that will now be displayed? Today, the MCASD collection numbers more than 5,600 works from 1950 to the present. The museum’s inaugural collection exhibition at the expanded Joan and Irwin Jacobs Building, Selections from the Collection, will highlight this rich history and display works that have rarely been on view, including works by John Baldessari, Larry Bell, Sam Gilliam, Robert Irwin, Barbara Kruger, Bruce Nauman, Helen Pashgian, Martin Puryear and Marcos Ramírez ERRE.
An installation view of Robert Irwin, “1°2°3°4°” (1997) PHOTO: © 2018 ROBERT IRWIN/ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NEW YORK
How did you come up with the new reopening exhibits, and how do they speak to California? In addition to Selections from the Collection, MCASD will inaugurate its new 6,800-square-foot special exhibition Iris & Matthew Strauss Galleries with Niki de Saint Phalle in the 1960s, the first exhibition to focus on the experimental and prolific work of revolutionary French American artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002) during this pivotal decade. The dramatic 20-foot ceilings will provide a one-of-a-kind showcase for this beloved artist’s work. Saint Phalle spent her final years in La Jolla and her work is widely represented throughout the county.
How will the new park, terraces and public spaces enable MCASD to better serve the community? New public gathering spaces [and] new design provide access to all through several outdoor spaces, including a new art park, revitalized sculpture garden and the open-to-the-public Axline Court, which will house additional artworks and also be a space for educational and community events. We can now also be a center of cultural activity. We can be a cultural hub, deeply embedded in diverse communities, where people can have a number of connections and different experiences.
What’s new as far as public programs and events? The museum has developed programs to gather audiences from around the San Diego/Tijuana region. New programming like Prebys Play Days are geared toward welcoming all families and offer the opportunity for art lovers of all ages to engage and discover their inner artist. The museum stays open late on Thursday evenings, Memorial Day through Labor Day, so that visitors can take in exhibitions and majestic sunsets. The museum also aspires to be a space for the community, offering not only exhibition engagement and discovery experiences, but also programs to enjoy the incredible amenities offered on-site.
What upcoming exhibits, events or additions can we expect? In the fall of 2022, MCASD will present Alexis Smith: The American Way, the first retrospective of the California artist in over 25 years. Situated alongside movements of conceptual and pop art and shaped by the feminist movements of the 1970s, Smith’s extensive work in collage provokes critical thought about the reality of contemporary American culture.