The grand reopening of the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art is scheduled for April 9

The Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego has announced that the reopening of its flagship site in La Jolla will take place on Saturday, April 9.

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) expansion, which over the past four years has undergone a $105 million renovation and expansion by world-renowned architects Selldorf, will offer four times the current gallery space, two levels of light-filled galleries, a public park and new oceanfront terraces offering spectacular views of the Pacific Coast.

The new design includes renovating 28,000 square feet of existing space as well as adding 46,400 square feet of new space to MCASD, doubling the museum’s existing square footage and bringing the new total museum size to 104,400 square feet. squares. Since the museum’s founding in 1941, MCASD has grown into a premier visual arts organization with two distinct locations, located in the coastal community of La Jolla and in the heart of downtown.

The La Jolla building will be renamed in honor of arts donors and supporters Joan and Irwin Jacobs. Their donation of $20 million served as the foundation for major fundraising efforts. Jacobs’ involvement with MCASD dates back to 1967. They fondly recall a joint event hosted by the UC San Diego Museum and Art Gallery for museum members and the small number of early members faculty and guests. The Jacobs became increasingly interested in contemporary art, often visited MCASD, and later became founding members of the International Collectors Circle.

“Our long-term interest in contemporary art grew significantly after our move to La Jolla, prompted by visits to the nearby contemporary art museum and interactions with faculty and students in the adventurous visual arts department. from UCSD,” said Irwin Jacobs.

“In July 1970, we held a fundraiser for the Democratic Party with works by local artists. One of the few works that did not sell was a very large canvas by John Baldessari, which is now part of from the MCASD collection Unfortunately, we did not purchase this painting, but Joan and I have become very active collectors of contemporary art.

“We now enjoy living with the art of a number of artists who have been introduced to us through many trips to the museum. We are especially thrilled that many more people now have the opportunity to enjoy great contemporary art with this beautiful expansion of MCASD in La Jolla,” said Jacobs.

The Jacobs have provided gifts for the museum’s two previous campaigns. In 2007, MCASD opened the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Building, located in downtown San Diego in the former Baggage Building of the famed Santa Fe Depot. Their $5 million contributions significantly expanded the footprint of the downtown museum and allowed 2 for large-scale installations, exhibitions and site-specific works.

The Jacobs later undertook to commission and acquire a major video installation by Jennifer Steinkamp (American, b. 1958). Now, in celebration of La Jolla’s reopening, they’ve donated two more sculptures: a stainless steel pumpkin with colorful polka dots by Yayoi Kusama (Japan, b.1929) and an oversized stack of lead books from Anselm Kiefer (Germany, born in 1945).

David C. Copley, Director and CEO of MCASD, Kathryn Kanjo, said, “Joan and Irwin Jacobs respond to contemporary art with enthusiasm, curiosity and respect. They find real meaning in aesthetic experiences and value the cultural and intellectual potential of San Diego. Their philanthropy is sincere and propulsive. It empowers nonprofit organizations, such as MCASD, to look to the future, allowing innovation in art and ideas to come to fruition.

The official grand opening featuring Kanjo, architect Annabelle Selldorf, board chairman Paul Jacobs and government officials is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 5. A series of celebrations and activities are planned throughout the week, culminating in the public opening and community celebration on April 9 followed by the first Prebys Play Day on April 10 funded by the Conrad Prebys Foundation. The full program and details will be posted on

“Our goal for the museum was to allow the fantastic site and views of the Pacific Ocean to guide a cohesive path of circulation and instill a generous and inclusive spirit in bringing people to MCASD’s great collection,” said Selldorf.

As well as providing significantly more gallery space for the collection, the new design creates a more welcoming and clearer entrance and gives greater coherence to the site, reinforcing the museum’s connection to its dramatic coastal setting. Most of the new galleries have high ceilings and the old Sherwood Auditorium has also been redeveloped into a 7,000 square foot gallery with 20 foot ceilings. Skylights and vertical windows bring natural light and the site’s distinct coastal views into the new spaces. LPA Inc. of San Diego is the executive architect for the project.

Kanjo noted, “With the expansion of Selldorf, MCASD’s flagship building is finally scaled to showcase the work it has collected over the past decades. High ceilings and natural light allow for inviting presentations of the collection alongside lively and changing exhibits. The design pays homage to the museum’s rich architectural history by framing distinctive village and coastal views, providing an updated space for 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 has more than 5,600 works from 1950 to the present day. The museum’s inaugural collection exhibition in the expanded Joan and Irwin Jacobs building, Selections from the Collection, will highlight this rich history and feature rarely exhibited works, 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 460-page printed manual, highlighting the distinction and strength of a collection built up over time. Kanjo said, “Our collection includes some of the greatest artists of the last century who represent diverse geographies, aesthetics, genders, races and often reflect the museum’s position on the Mexican border. With this extra space, we can constantly present these objects to a curious public.

MCASD will open its new 6,800 square foot special exhibition Galeries Iris and Matthew Strauss with Niki de Saint Phalle in the 1960s, the first exhibition to focus on the experimental and prolific work of the revolutionary French-American artist Saint Phalle 3 (1930-2002) during this pivotal decade. The dramatic 20 foot ceilings will provide a unique showcase for this artist’s work. Saint Phalle spent his final years in La Jolla and his work is widely represented throughout the county.

Co-presented and co-curated by The Menil Collection in Houston, the exhibition explores a transformative 10-year period in Saint Phalle’s work when she embarked on two of her most important series: the Tirs, or “paintings shooting”, 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 experience Saint Phalle’s fantastical late public art, we in Southern California have had less exposure to his radical 1960s work,” said Jill Dawsey, senior curator at the Museum. of contemporary art in San Diego. “Saint Phalle had an important relationship with this region. In the early 1960s, she held several shooting sessions in Los Angeles, in what was among the earliest examples of performance art in Southern California. She would eventually settle in San Diego in the 1990s.”

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

Niki de Saint Phalle in the 1960s is co-curated by Michelle White, Senior Curator, Menil Collection, and Dawsey. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog containing archival images, essays and commentaries.

This year, both venues will feature solo exhibitions by pioneering artists, including the current exhibition of the late Yolanda López (1942-2021) in downtown MCASD, and upcoming investigations of Saint Phalle (1930-2002) and Alexis Smith (US, b.1949) at MCASD.

Yolanda López: Portrait of the Artist is the first solo exhibition by López, a revolutionary artist, activist and educator whose career in California spanned five decades. López, who died 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 California artist’s first retrospective in over 25 years. Set alongside the conceptual and pop art movements and shaped by the feminist movements of the 1970s, Smith’s important collage work provokes critical reflection on the reality of contemporary American culture.

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

It is thanks to the unwavering generosity of the donor community that the museum is able to welcome regional, national and international audiences to its newly expanded galleries. Significant gallery funding has been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for Humanities, City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture.


The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) is the region’s premier forum for exploring and showcasing the art of today. Open since 1941, it invites all audiences to reflect on their lives, their communities and the ever-changing world through the powerful prism of contemporary art. Between two MCASD sites – one in downtown San Diego and the other in the coastal community of La Jolla – the museum showcases an internationally acclaimed collection. MCASD’s dynamic exhibition program showcases a wide range 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 the region.


Selections from the Collection, in theaters April 9-in progress.
Niki de Saint Phalle in the 1960s, on view from April 9 to July.
Alexis Smith: The American Way, Fall 2022.

Yolanda López: Portrait of the Artist, on view until April 24.

Christopher S. Washington