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Thousands visit as SFMOMA closes for expansion

originally posted by SF Gate
June 3, 2013

As goodbyes go, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s closure Sunday was less a tearjerker than a cause for celebration as thousands of visitors packed its halls for a last glimpse before a multiyear closure to allow an expansion that will more than double its size.

During its final four-day stretch, the museum offered free admission and tallied 48,000 guests, officials said.

On Sunday, a party-like atmosphere prevailed. Guests were entertained by puppeteers, a colonial fife-and-drum corps and an 11-year-old improvisational keyboardist, among others, at the Rooftop Pavilion.

They took photos of themselves in front of favorite artworks on every floor, and stood in line for hours to see the 24-hour film “The Clock.” And when the real clock struck 5:30 p.m., artist Desirée Holman led a farewell processional from the top floor down and out the front door. Many wore tinfoil hats they made at the museum, Holman’s idea of “time travel hats” leading into the future.

The activities marked the closure in a meaningful way, even though the museum is not going away. Many SFMOMA exhibitions are planned at local venues to keep the museum fresh in the minds of Bay Area residents and donors.

“We’re not going to let you forget about us,” SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra told the crowd. “The lights may go off here at 6 o’clock this evening, but we’ll be turning on the lights all over the city for the next 2 1/2 years until we see you all back here in 2016.”

Just as modern art has unusual juxtapositions, so there were in the crowd. Alongside parents pushing babies in strollers and young professional couples listening to docents’ talks was Texas billionaire Sid Bass, with former newspaper columnist Jim Meeker and San Franciscan Kathleen Sullivan Alioto. Drag queen Peaches Christ entertained upstairs.

Bemoaning her own inertia was Dr. Alexandra Ianculescu, 32: “I wish I had taken advantage of the museum more.”

Nicole Loux, 50, a hairstylist from Richmond, was a newbie. “I didn’t even know the museum was here.”

Software engineering manager Zaka Ashraf and his sons, Musa, 7, Yusuf, 10, and Qaasim, 13, shrugged off hiking and sailing to drive in from Pleasanton.

“We thought it would be an interesting statement of art,” Ashraf said, “to create our own memory of art on the museum’s last day.”

Bruce Beaudette, 53, a San Francisco security guard, said a closing day is a good day to visit for a simple reason: “There’s excitement because we inherently know we won’t be the only ones there. We knew there would be a sense of community in the last moments of SFMOMA.”

Photo information:
Docent Marcia Middleton. right, explains the major renovation project to Kate Wilbourne, center, and Melvin Terry, left, at SFMOMA in San Francisco, Calif., on Sunday, June 2, 2013. SFMOMA is closing on Sunday, June 2, 2013, before undertaking a major remodeling project. Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

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