Founded in 1941 as The Art Center in La Jolla, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) has evolved into an organization of national and international renown.
The Collection includes more than 5,600 works created since 1950, and reflects an artistic program that encourages promising emerging artists and recognizes mid-career artists whose work deserves more visibility. The Museum serves the region as a vital cultural and civic asset, with contemporary art and living artists at its core.
MCASD in La Jolla traces its origins to 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. From many names such as La Jolla Art Center to La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, and now Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, the property has undergone several architecturally distinct expansions. Mosher & Drew completed a series of expansions in 1950, 1960, and again in the late 1970s; and a 1996 renovation of the La Jolla property by Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates restored the Scripps House façade, added Axline Court, and enhanced the Edwards Sculpture Garden and café.
In 2014 Selldorf Architects was tasked with developing new architecture for MCASD in La Jolla that would expand and enhance spaces for art and the public. Selldorf Architects’ new plan quadrupled the size of the existing gallery space from almost 10,000 square feet to 40,000 square feet, providing space to simultaneously exhibit MCASD’s permanent collection as well as rotating exhibitions. MCASD in La Jolla opened the doors to the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Building in April 2022.
In 1993, following a series of storefront gallery locations in downtown San Diego in the late 1980s, MCASD opened a permanent Downtown San Diego location in America Plaza at 1001 Kettner Boulevard, across the street from the Santa Fe Depot. In a building by architect Helmut Jahn, the Museum's interiors were designed by the artists-architect team of Robert Irwin, Richard Fleischner, and David Raphael Singer.
In January 2007, MCASD expanded the downtown location with the opening of two Richard Gluckman-designed buildings across the street from the 1001 Kettner location, and major commissioned site-specific works by Jenny Holzer, Richard Serra, Richard Wright, and Roman de Salvo. The Joan and Irwin Jacobs Building (formerly the Santa Fe Depot baggage building built in 1915-16) features light-filled galleries and large spaces suitable for the presentation of large-scale installations and site-specific works. The David C. Copley Building includes The Berglund Room for lectures and programs, The Woods Terrace for events, and The Betlach Family Foundation education room for hands-on, interactive art activities.
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. We welcome all audiences to reflect on their lives, communities, and the ever-changing world through the powerful prism of contemporary art. 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.