Posts Tagged ‘SF MOMA’

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art – new cafe & (good) old seating

March 2, 2010

The recently opened top-floor cafe at SFMOMA is pretty successful as a place to rest and refresh, if somewhat pricey in the coffee and snacks department.

There aren’t really enough tables to accommodate everyone during periods of heavy use, but there’s an advantage to that. On two occasions, we’ve shared tables with strangers and gotten into interesting conversations as a result. So in a way the dearth of tables encourages social interaction.

The adjacent sculpture garden (to the south or right in the above photo) is a pleasant enough space. To the north (or left) is another outside area that, while it features sculpture, is often too sunless, windy, and chilly to be enjoyed sitting down.

To get to and from the cafe, you pass through a corridor with a long glass wall that looks out over the urban jumble north of the museum toward Mission Street.

This is another space that works well in terms of eye and spirit relief. The full length windows bring the outside right into the museum, and the flood of natural light is a relief after the white-cube windowless top floor galleries.

Speaking of galleries, there is ample (if backless and armless) seating throughout the museum, placed to encourage contemplation of the art.

Labels are decently readable, for the most part. I didn’t notice this one (toward the right in the photo below) until I went through my images from the visit – it’s a lot of text, but it’s in big, legible type.

I was also pleased to note that SFMOMA’s Koret Education Center still is one of the best, most comfortable places to sit, space out, read, or watch a video that I’ve encountered in any museum. Quite a variety of chairs, couches, and stools. You can watch whatever video is currently playing, if you choose, or sit well out of the line of sight and sound if that’s your preference. 

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Ticket price as a barrier to museum access, Part 1: Art museums

December 28, 2009

How can museums, zoos, and other cultural institutions stay in business while serving visitors whose finances are limited? When does the price of admission become a barrier to access?

Anyone who’s worked in and around museums can tell you that free days generally bring in not only a larger crowd, but people who seem to have less disposable income than the usual run of visitors.

When I worked at the Exploratorium in the early 2000’s, the contrast between free first Wednesdays and the rest of the month was striking. It was the busiest day of the month, hands down; the crowd was much more racially mixed and on the whole looked much less affluent. There were more couples who looked to be in their teens and early twenties, as opposed to the usual parent/guardian types with children. There were also busloads of kids and their chaperones from schools and day camps all over northern California that likely couldn’t pay the museum’s group rates.

Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and get involved with the exhibits as much as any other set of visitors, though. To my eye — and I must emphasize that I have no research to back this up — this was a crowd that stayed away from the Exploratorium on every other day of the month not out of lack of interest, but because they couldn’t afford it.

I suspect that this is true for museums, zoos, and aquariums across the United States. To get a sense of whether this might be the case, I did a quick survey of admission prices at a small sample of leading art and science museums across the country.

Some provisos: I did not include pay-what-you-will museums (the Met in New York, although you wouldn’t know it from their signage or website), or free ones (the Smithsonians in Washington, the Gettys in LA, which do charge for parking but even then are a bargain). I did not take into account free/reduced admission times, package deals, or membership deals and prices. These are just basic, walk-up retail prices.

Based on the general admission price for adults, seniors, and students, I calculated the cost of admission for a family of four,: two adults, one senior, one youth/student. Here are the results for my sample art museums:

MoMA, New York: $68

Guggenheim, New York: $51

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: $65.50

Art Institute of Chicago: $48

Philadelphia Museum of Art: $58

Denver Art Museum: $31 (Colorado residents), $41 (non-residents)

LACMA, Los Angeles: $32

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: $39

Average cost of admission, family of four: $50. Not including parking/transit, food, special exhibits, museum store, etc. 

We’ll look at science museums in Part 2.