May 20, 2022

Charlie Doodle

Unique Art & Entertainment

Opinion: Our newly expanded contemporary art museum is a work of art. Here’s what to expect.

3 min read

Kanjo is the director and CEO of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, and lives in La Jolla.

What makes a great art museum? Today’s museums are reimagining their role in the community and reevaluating who they serve and how. As the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego prepares to reopen our flagship location in La Jolla after a four-year expansion, we are planning to make it emerge as more than custodians of contemporary art. The upheaval of recent years has offered an opportunity to pause and rethink our museum as a place for people as well as objects, a place committed to diversity, community and open-mindedness.

If the pandemic has demonstrated the interconnectedness of our global world, the ensuing social distancing has highlighted our desire — our need — for authentic encounters with one another and our own humanity. This April, we are unveiling an art museum for the 21st century. When our design process began in 2014, our main objective of creating a more welcoming, inclusive and sustainable institution foreshadowed the concerns many museums are currently facing.

As museums, we protect art objects to tell our stories and to reveal ourselves. The act of viewing is highly introspective, yet museums also offer a social activity: Visitors arrive with companions, families and friends. This will be a return, to the collection and to each other.

As a museum of the future, we have placed accessibility at the forefront. Our guest engagement practices strive to ensure that all visitors feel respected, warmly welcomed and comfortable in the museum. Embedded in our new membership options is an initiative called Art for All, where each purchase offers a supplemental membership for qualifying individuals and families. Doing so allows us to position ourselves not just as a place where art is stored but as an accessible site of cultural gathering, understanding, and introspection.

We are grounded by the belief that a museum is more than just the art — it should exist to serve its community, to offer a space where people can see themselves and their reality reflected. Out of this evolution, a new order at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego will open: offering encounters with unique objects conjured by individual artists.

Museums have the potential to facilitate internal reflection or spark conversation. They are a shared cultural archive. Contemporary art sparks insight, inspiration and ideas that have the power to not only change ourselves but catalyze change in our communities and throughout our world. Our community deserves a site of shared experiences and reflection. Selldorf Architects have imagined a museum with architecture as affecting as its location, with galleries expansive enough to display the historic holdings and mirror the region’s cultural ambition.

As a contemporary art museum that has locations in a visitor-focused beach community and one Downtown and closer to the Tijuana border, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego serves a vibrant and varied community including a binational and bicultural audience as well as visitors from all over the globe. When visitors come to our site, they are experiencing the art of San Diego to the fullest extent. The design does that through its architecture, which invites our shared environment into the gallery space, and the collection does that through its holdings — which have always aspired to be reflective of our region’s cross-cultural identity.

To date, our collection includes more than 5,600 objects in all media, dating from 1950 to the present, and roughly captures the dates of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s existence. We’ve always sought relevancy, showing world-class art from a local vantage. Alongside abstract legacies of modernism is art that represents the people, places and things that describe our world — image-rich works that are familiar and unexpected, objects that embrace the culture of our border region and extend south to Latin America. International in scope, the collection demonstrates pride of place: the West Coast, broadly, and San Diego specifically.

When our doors open on April 9, we will offer art with a view and art with a point of view. We will be a museum again: art and audience. Our core identity, our holdings which have been developed over the decades by multiple voices, will, at last, be on long-term view. Visitors will activate and complete the pictures. We will find community in the art and with each other.


https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/opinion/commentary/story/2022-03-29/contemporary-art-museum-san-diego-la-jolla-open

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