When the SFMOMA announced plans to expand last December, reporters rhapsodized over the renovation plans. One question went nearly unaddressed: though the Chron's John King noted in passing that the construction would require a closure for an "unspecified period," no specifics were announced or reported. With construction expected to start in the summer of 2013, the SFMOMA continues to refuse to release specifics on the building's closure, even as some employees of the museum say that the facility is expected to shutter completely for as long as three years.
According to two sources inside SFMOMA, the museum will close down for as long as three years: one of those years staggered, two of said years shut down entirely. (Though there will be outside events that "go beyond its walls.") That's a pretty big window of time, especially for the museum's many employees. For more information, we asked the museum's public relations manager Robyn Wise for more details. We also asked her if the majority of museum employees will be out of work for two years, or, if that's not the case, what the employees (not just curators, as the museum employs a lot of people) will be being paid to do if the museum is closed.
Wise replied, "We're not yet ready to share that level of detail about our interim programming. But we are planning a slate of programs...that are innovative and will utilize the expertise and creativity of our staff."
On Tuesday, SFMOMA released interesting yet somewhat hazy plans for the future, noting:
As part of the next phase of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)'s expansion project, the museum today announced plans to go beyond its walls and directly into the community through an array of collaborative and traveling museum exhibitions, site-specific installations, and neighborhood festivals that will unfold throughout the Bay Area and beyond during construction of its new building.
The expansion project breaks ground roughly a year from now in summer of 2013 and is slated for completion in early 2016. Instead of relocating to a temporary home during the approximately two-and-a-half- year span leading up to the inauguration of the new building, SFMOMA will use this period to experiment with new ideas, engage in dialogue with a range of cultural partners, and create innovative ways for audiences to experience the museum's collection.
While not mentioning a specific time of closure, the museum goes on to add:
SFMOMA's decision to pursue off-site programming during construction evolved from a detailed review of the best options for the museum's art collection, the audiences it serves, and its vision for the future. Joint programs through partnership further SFMOMA's mission to make art not only widely accessible, but accessible in continually new and surprising ways.
In the weeks leading up to the final day of public museum operation in the current building—which will be Sunday, June 2, 2013—the museum will host a series of celebratory events and programs to mark the beginning of this next stage in the museum's evolution.
They go on to list a slew of great off-site events (pop-ups, as San Francisco's food sect calls them) that will take place over the course of the museum's renovation. The museum will start construction in 2013, with a completion date estimated for 2016.
Update: As SFist commenter mayonnaiseslacks points out, "[H]ere's another section of phrasing they sent out via a membership email yesterday: 'To complete the construction that is part of the museum's transformation, it will be necessary to move our exhibitions and programs completely off site for a period of time. June 2, 2013, roughly a year from now, will be the last day our building is open to the public until we reopen in early 2016.' "