Articles January 5, 2022

Expanded Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla to reopen in April

Source: San Diego News

Published – 01/05/22 – 08:30 AM 

A glimpse into the new state-of-the-art Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla revealed a maze of indoor galleries in cavernous climate-controlled surroundings.

The museum’s indoor exhibit space is now quadrupled offering outdoor patios with sweeping ocean views. The museum’s remodel/expansion also pays homage to the building’s extensive architectural heritage.

A special sneak peek at La Jolla’s vastly improved $105 million renovations and expansion of MCASD by world-renowned Seldorf Architects was led on Dec. 15 by Kathryn Kanjo, David C. Copley director/CEO of MCASD.

“We had the one chance to do the renovation,” said Kanjo. “We went big. We went deep. We gathered the space.”

Kanjo pointed out the updated MCASD has about 40,000 square feet of exhibit space compared with only about 10,000 feet previously. She said the museum is now appropriately sized to fulfill its many needs.

“With the Seldorf expansion, MCASD’s flagship building is, at last, scaled to showcase the work it has collected over the past decades,” she said. “Soaring ceilings and natural light allow for inviting displays of the collection alongside lively changing exhibitions.”

Added Kanjo: “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 the art and today’s 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 scheduled to reopen to the public in April.

Of the museum’s refit, principal architect Annabelle Selldorf said, “Our goal for the museum was to allow the fantastic site and views of the Pacific Ocean to guide a coherent circulation path and instill a generous and inclusive spirit to bring people to the great collection of MCASD.”

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

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

“We are an 80-year-old institution collecting art from 1950,” said Kanjo. “We needed more space to show our collection of more than 5,000 pieces, which are now in a 25,000-square-foot storage facility. We’re expecting to bring pieces back and have them on a longer-term view, while simultaneously being able to have special exhibitions.”

Kanjo conducted a grand tour of the new, improved, and expanded museum, winding through its diverse exhibit spaces with towering ceilings located on multiple levels.

Asked why Annabelle Seldorf from the East Coast was selected to do the museum remodel, Kanjo replied, “She had designed such exquisite art spaces, not just for museums but also for commercial art galleries. Also, we chose her for her ability to deal with historical renovations. She is not the kind of architect who comes in and plops something new down. She works very pragmatically with the community and with what she’s given.”

Kanjo noted permitting delays not related to COVID have extended the museum’s renovation/expansion. “Construction has taken 32 months so far, and it was supposed to have taken 28,” she said. “We absorbed a lot of the delays because it was such a big project.”

Kanjo said the museum’s reconfigured space now includes onsite underground staff parking. The former Sherwood Auditorium has been converted into an exhibition space. The cafe space in the front of the museum will return with a new proprietor to be announced soon.

There will also be lots of new public meeting space, indoors and out, at MCASD.

“We’re not planning to treat this so much as a gallery but as a people space for receptions, for the public,” Kanjo said. “If they want 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’ll also do rentals. It will help us to have memories made here with different types of events.”


For its inaugural curated exhibition, MCASD in April will introduce a presentation titled “Niki de Saint Phalle in the 1960s.” It will be the first exhibition to focus on the experimental and prolific work of trailblazing French-American artist and sculptor Niki de Sainte Phalle (1930-2002), during this formative decade of her work.

On view through July, the Saint Phalle exhibit will feature numerous works from European collections, many seen in the United States for the first time. The exhibition will explore this transformative 10-year period of Saint Phalle’s work when she embarked on two of her most significant series: the tirs, or “shooting paintings,” and the exuberant sculptures of women she called Nanas.

Affirming the artist’s place in post-war art history, this show will highlight her prescient works of performance, participatory, and feminist art, as well as her many transatlantic projects and collaborations.

“While local audiences are familiar with Saint Phalle’s later fantastical works of public art, we in Southern California have had less exposure to her radical work of the 1960s, which put into circulation strikingly original representations that resonate strongly in our moment,” said Jill Dawsey, MCASD La Jolla’s curator. “Saint Phalle had an important relationship to this region. In the early ’60s, she staged several shooting sessions in Los Angeles, in what were among the earliest instances of performance art in Southern California. She would eventually settle in San Diego in the 1990s.”

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

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