Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

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Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) Announces Grand Reopening Plans and Exhibitions
A beautiful day in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art building in La Jolla.

New Building Named for Long-Time Supporters Joan and Irwin Jacobs

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) is pleased to announce the reopening of its flagship location in La Jolla on Saturday, April 9, 2022, which over the past four years has undergone a $105 million renovation and expansion by world-renowned Selldorf Architects. The expanded Museum will offer four times the current gallery space, two levels of light-filled galleries, a public park, and new seaside terraces offering dramatic views of the Pacific Coast. The new design includes the renovation of 28,000 square feet of existing spaces as well as the addition of 46,400 square feet of new spaces to MCASD, effectively doubling the Museum’s existing square footage and bringing the new total size of the museum to 104,400 square feet.

Since the Museum’s founding in 1941, MCASD has evolved into a leading visual arts organization with two distinct locations, situated in the coastal community of La Jolla and in the heart of downtown San Diego.

The La Jolla building will be renamed in honor of generous donors and arts supporters Joan and Irwin Jacobs. Their gift of $20 million provided the foundation for the extensive fundraising efforts. The Jacob’s involvement with MCASD dates back to 1967. They fondly remember a joint event arranged by the Museum and the UCSD Art gallery for museum members and the small number of early faculty members and guests. The Jacobs became increasingly interested in contemporary art, visited MCASD often, and later became founding membersof the International Collectors Circle.

"Our long-term interest in contemporary art expanded greatly following our move to La Jolla, driven by visits to the nearby Museum of Contemporary Art and interactions with faculty and students in UCSD's adventurous Visual Arts Department,” Irwin Jacobs recalled. “In July 1970, we hosted a Democratic party fundraiser with works from local artists. One of the few works that did not sell was a very large canvas by John Baldessari which is now part of the MCASD Collection. Unfortunately, we did not buy that painting, but Joan and I didbecome very active collectors of contemporary art. We now enjoy living with art by a number of the artists introduced to us by many Museum trips. We are especially excited that many others will now have theopportunity to enjoy great contemporary art with this beautiful expansion of MCASD in La Jolla.

"The Jacobs provided gifts for Museum’s previous two campaigns. In 2007, MCASD opened the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Building, located in downtown San Diego at the former baggage building for the landmark Santa Fe Depot. Their $5 million contribution significantly expanded the footprint of the downtown museum and allowed 2 for large-scale installations, exhibitions, and site-specific works. The Jacobs subsequently underwrote the commission and acquisition of a major video installation by Jennifer Steinkamp (United States, b. 1958). Now, on the occasion of the La Jolla reopening, they have donated two additional sculptures: a stainless steel pumpkin with colorful polka dots by Yayoi Kusama (Japan, b. 1929), and an oversized stack of lead books by Anselm Kiefer (Germany, b. 1945).

Kathryn Kanjo, David C. Copley Director and CEO, MCASD explained: “Joan and Irwin Jacobs respond to contemporary art with enthusiasm, curiosity, and respect. They find true meaning in aesthetic experiences and value the cultural and intellectual potential of San Diego. Their philanthropy is heartfelt and it is propulsive. It enables non-profit organizations, such as MCASD, to look to the future, allowing the innovation of art and ideas to come to fruition.”

The official ribbon cutting featuring David C. Copley Director and CEO Kathryn Kanjo, Architect Annabelle Selldorf, Board President Paul Jacobs, and Government officials is scheduled for Tuesday, April 5 at 8:30 am. A series of celebrations and activities are planned throughout the week culminating in the public opening and community celebration on Saturday, April 9 followed by the first Prebys Play Day on Sunday, April 10 funded by the Conrad Prebys Foundation. Full schedule and details will be posted here: Architect Annabelle Selldorf noted: “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.” In addition to providing significantly more gallery space for the collection, the new design creates a more welcoming and clear entry, and gives greater coherence to the site enhancing the Museum’s connection to its spectacular coastal setting. Many of the new galleries have high ceilings and the former Sherwood Auditorium has also been repurposed as a 7,000-square-foot gallery with 20-foot ceilings. Skylights and vertical windows bring the site’s distinct natural light and coastal views into the new spaces. LPA Inc. of San Diego is executive architect on the project.

Kathryn Kanjo noted: “With the Selldorf expansion, MCASD’s flagship building is, at last, scaled to showcase the work it has collected over the past decades. Soaring ceilings and natural light allow for inviting displays of the collection alongside lively, changing exhibitions. The design honors the Museum’s rich architectural history as it frames distinctive views of the village and the coast, providing an updated space for the art and for today’s audience. We look forward to inviting the public to explore our world, our region, and ourselves through the prism of contemporary art.”

Today, the MCASD collection numbers more than 5,600 works from 1950 to the present. The Museum’s inaugural collection exhibition at the expanded Joan and Irwin Jacobs Building, Selections from the Collection, will highlight this rich history and display works that have rarely been on view, including works by John Baldessari, Larry Bell, Sam Gilliam, Robert Irwin, Barbara Kruger, Bruce Nauman, Helen Pashgian, Martin Puryear, and Marcos Ramírez ERRE, to name a few.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a printed 460-page handbook, highlighting the distinction and strength of a collection formed over time. Kanjo commented: “Our collection includes some of the greatest artists from the past century that represent diverse geographies, aesthetics, genders, races, and often reflect the Museum’s position by the Mexico border. With this added space we can consistently present these objects to a curious public.”

MCASD will inaugurate its new 6,800-square-foot special exhibition Iris & Matthew Strauss Galleries with Niki de Saint Phalle in the 1960s, the first exhibition to focus on the experimental and prolific work of revolutionary 3 French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930–2002) during this pivotal decade. The dramatic 20-foot ceilings will provide a one-of-a-kind showcase for this beloved artist’s work.

Saint Phalle spent her final years in La Jolla and her work is widely represented throughout the County. Copresented and co-curated by The Menil Collection in Houston, the exhibition explores a transformative tenyear period in 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, and brings together major paintings, assemblages, and sculptures from this prolific chapter in the artist’s career.

“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,” explained Jill Dawsey, Senior Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. She added, “Saint Phalle had an important relationship to this region. In the early 1960s, 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.”

According to Kanjo: “Many of Saint Phalle’s fantastical creatures and visionary environments cover our landscape and resonate with the community. This rare presentation from a pivotal period in the artist’s career is a gift to our public and a homecoming for the artist.”

Niki de Saint Phalle in the 1960s is co-curated by Michelle White, Senior Curator, the Menil Collection, and Jill Dawsey, PhD, Curator, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. The show is accompanied by a catalogue that features archival images, essays, and commentary.

This year, both locations will feature solo exhibitions by trailblazing female artists, including the current exhibition of the late Yolanda López (1942-2021) at MCASD Downtown, and forthcoming surveys of Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002) and Alexis Smith (United States, b.1949) at MCASD.

Yolanda López: Portrait of the Artist is the first solo museum exhibition for Yolanda López (1942-2021), the path-breaking artist, activist, and educator whose career in California spanned five decades. López, who passed away last September, was celebrated for her role in the Chicano art movement and for her iconic Guadalupe series.

In the Fall of 2022, MCASD La Jolla will present Alexis Smith: The American Way, the first retrospective of the California artist in over twenty-five years. Situated alongside movements of Conceptual and Pop art and shaped by the Feminist movements of the 1970s, Smith’s extensive work in collage provokes critical thought about the reality of contemporary American culture.

Anthony Graham, Associate Curator, commented: “Alexis Smith has long been considered a central figure of art in Los Angeles and has continued to have an impactful presence in the region and yet, her work has not received the critical attention that it deserves.”

It is through the steadfast generosity of our community of donors that the Museum is able to welcome regional, national and international audiences to its newly expanded galleries. Major funding galleries has been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for Humanities, City of San Diego Commission for Arts & Culture.

On view in collection galleries April 9 – Ongoing

Niki de Saint Phalle in the 1960s On view April 9 – July 2022 Media Preview: April 5, 2022

Alexis Smith: The American Way Fall 2022


Yolanda López: Portrait of the ArtistOn view through April 24, 2022

ABOUT MCASD:The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) is the region’s foremost forum devoted to the exploration and presentation of the art of today. Open since 1941, we welcome all audiences to reflect on their lives, communities, and the ever-changing world through the powerful prism of contemporary art. Between twoMCASD locations — one in the heart of downtown San Diego and the other in the coastal community of La Jolla — we showcase an internationally-recognized collection. MCASD’s dynamic exhibition schedule features a vast array of media in an unprecedented variety of spaces, along with a growing dedication to community experiences and public programs. As a cultural hub, MCASD seeks to catalyze conversation in our region.

Photos available upon request.

MCASD (Opening April 2022)700 Prospect St, La Jolla, CA 92037

Toni Robin, TR/PR Public Relations, 858 483 3918,