San Diego Community News Group


The renovated and expanded San Diego Contemporary Art Museum in La Jolla, seen from the ocean in this artist’s rendering, will reopen in April. COURTESY GRAPHIC


A glimpse of the new, state-of-the-art San Diego Contemporary Art Museum in La Jolla revealed a labyrinth of interior galleries in a cavernous, temperature-controlled environment.

The museum’s indoor exhibit space has now quadrupled and offers outdoor patios with stunning ocean views. The renovation / expansion of the museum also pays homage to the building’s vast architectural heritage.

On December 15, Kathryn Kanjo, David C. Copley, Director / CEO of MCASD, presented a special overview of the significantly improved $ 105 million renovations and expansion of La Jolla by world-renowned architects Seldorf.

“We were fortunate enough to do the renovation,” Kanjo said. “We went big. We went deep. We have gathered the space.

Kanjo pointed out that the updated MCASD has about 40,000 square feet of exhibit space, up from only about 10,000 feet previously. She said the museum is now appropriately sized to meet her many needs.

“With the Seldorf expansion, the MCASD flagship building is finally up to scale to showcase the work it has collected over the past decades,” she said. “The high ceilings and natural light allow for inviting exhibits of the collection alongside changing and lively exhibits. “

Kanjo added: “The design honors the museum’s rich architectural history as it frames distinctive views of La Jolla village and the coast, providing an updated space for today’s art and audience. We look forward to inviting the public to explore our world, our region and ourselves through the prism of contemporary art.

MCASD La Jolla is slated to reopen to the public in April.

Commenting on the redevelopment of the museum, lead architect Annabelle Selldorf said: “Our goal for the museum was to allow the fantastic site and the views of the Pacific Ocean to guide a cohesive path of movement and instill a generous spirit. and inclusive to bring people to MCASD’s great collection.

MCASD has its roots in La Jolla philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps, whose modern beachfront dwelling in La Jolla, completed in 1916 by renowned architect Irving Gill (1870-1936), served as the museum’s first location. in 1941. The property has since undergone several distinct architectural extensions. Mosher & Drew completed a series of expansions in 1950, 1960 and again in the late 1970s.

There was also a renovation of the La Jolla property in 1996 by Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, which restored the facade of Scripps House, added Axline Court, and improved the museum’s garden and cafe.

“We’re an 80-year-old institution that collects artwork from 1950,” Kanjo said. “We needed more space to show off our collection of over 5,000 pieces, which are now housed in a 25,000 square foot storage facility. We plan to bring back pieces and have them on a longer term perspective, while simultaneously being able to hold special exhibitions. “

Kanjo took a grand tour of the new improved and expanded museum, walking through its various exhibition spaces with towering ceilings located on multiple levels.

When asked why Annabelle Seldorf from the East Coast was chosen to renovate the museum, Kanjo replied, “She had designed such exquisite art spaces not only for museums but also for art galleries. commercial. Also, we chose it for its ability to manage historic renovations. She’s not the kind of architect to come and create something new. She works very pragmatically with the community and with what she has given.

Kanjo noted that authorization delays unrelated to COVID have prolonged the renovation / expansion of the museum. “Construction has taken 32 months so far, and it was supposed to have taken 28,” she said. “We absorbed a lot of delays because it was such a big project.”

Kanjo said the reconfigured museum space now includes underground parking for staff. The former Sherwood auditorium has been converted into an exhibition space. The café area in front of the museum will return with a new owner who will be announced soon.

There will also be many new public meeting spaces, indoor and outdoor, at MCASD.

“We don’t plan to treat this so much as a gallery as a people space for receptions, for the public,” Kanjo said. “If they want to take a break from the art, they can come out and look at the view, where we’ll have two long benches along the wall. We will also do rentals. It will help us create memories here with different types of events.


For its inaugural exhibition, the MCASD will present in April a presentation entitled “Niki de Saint Phalle in the 1960s”. This will be the first exhibition to focus on the experimental and prolific work of pioneering Franco-American artist and sculptor Niki de Sainte Phalle (1930-2002), during this formative decade of his work.

Presented until July, the Saint Phalle exhibition will present numerous works from European collections, many of which were seen for the first time in the United States. The exhibition will explore this 10-year period of transformation in Saint Phalle’s work when she embarked on two of her most important series: the shots, or “shooting paintings”, and the exuberant sculptures of women she called Nanas.

Affirming the artist’s place in the history of post-war art, this exhibition will highlight his premonitory works of performance, participatory and feminist art, as well as his numerous transatlantic projects and collaborations.

“While local audiences are familiar with Saint Phalle’s latest fantastic public art works, we in Southern California have had less exposure to his radical 1960s work, which put into circulation some surprisingly original performances that resonate strongly. in our time, ”said Jill Dawsey. , curator of MCASD La Jolla. “Saint Phalle had an important relationship with this region. In the early 1960s, she organized several filming sessions in Los Angeles, one of the earliest examples of performance art in Southern California. She will eventually settle in San Diego in the 1990s.

“Having spent the last years of his life in La Jolla, Saint Phalle’s many fantastic creatures and visionary environments cover our landscape and resonate with the community,” said Kathryn Kanjo, Director / CEO of MCASD. “This rare presentation of a pivotal period in the artist’s career is a gift for our audience and a homecoming for the artist.


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