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by Jill Loeffler •
Updated: January 13, 2023
The SF Museum of Modern Art is a one of the most popular museums in San Francisco. It's located steps from Union Square in the South of Market (SOMA) District.
This museum just did a major expansion and reopened after being closed for three years. Inside you will now find 10 floors of artwork, which makes it almost three times its original size. I also love that they added about six times more public space with several pieces you can see at no cost.
The museum houses more than 30,000 works of art. In its permanent collection, you can see pieces from well-known artists such as Henri Matisse and Diego Rivera. You will also find beautiful photography, modern architectural pieces, and several other modern paintings.
Highlights for the SF Museum of Modern Art
Disclaimer: I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.
How much does it cost to visit the SF Museum of Modern Art? Are there any discount passes? Do they have any free days?
What are their hours? What days is the SF MOMA closed? What holidays are they open?
When is the best time to visit? How long should I plan for my visit?
What is currently showing? What are some of the must see pieces?
Are you allowed to take pictures?
Do they have a restaurant? What are the hours?
Do they offer docent led tours? Do they provide special audio tours?
Is there parking in or near the museum?
What is the best public transit to use to get here? Which BART Station is best?
Is it ADA accessible? Do they offer wheelchair rentals?
Do they have a gift shop? Can I enter the gift shop without visiting the museum?
What is the history of this SF museum?
The SF Museum of Modern Art is amazing. It's well laid out with plenty of room to look around without it feeling too crowded. It's the perfect treat for anyone that loves modern art.
The cost to visit is:
There may also be a small fee for some of their traveling exhibits.
*Free: Even though you can get in free within these two groups, you must still have a ticket for entry. For those 18 and under, you can book your free ticket with the purchase of a full priced ticket or member ticket online on the SF MOMA website. Members must book their free ticket online in advance before they arrive. A limited number of free tickets are available at the door, but they go quickly.
The SF Museum of Modern Art announces free days every once in a while. They also have a large public area (over 45,000 square feet) that is admission free. You are free to wonder around this area and check out the free art displays during their regular museum hours.
They do participate in certain city wide and district programs that offer free days to the community a couple of times a year.
They also offer free admission to all Bay Area residents every Thursday from 1 pm to 8 pm. I recommend you book in advance online to ensure you get your free admission tickets.
Visit my free days page to learn more.
You can also save on your admission by purchasing one of San Francisco's great discount passes. There are more than a dozen to choose from and some of them include admission to the SF Museum of Modern Art.
These are the ones that I recommend checking out before buying individual tickets for your stay.
City Pass: The most popular discount card for San Francisco is the City Pass. It includes admission to the SF Museum of Modern Art. You will also receive a ticket to the California Academy of Sciences and the Aquarium of the Bay. You will also get a ticket to a 60-minute bay cruise.
You can use the pass over multiple days, so you don't have to squeeze it all into one day. I recommend using it over the course of three days, so it doesn't feel so rushed. This card offers you the chance to save more than 40%.
>> Visit the City Pass site for details
Go City: The Go City is one of our more popular discount passes. It's offered by Smart Destinations and includes admission for more than 25 SF and Bay Area attractions.
This pass is based on the number of days you want to visit attractions. You will buy a 1-, 2-, 3- or 5-day pass and then see as much as you can during that time. You can also just select the attractions or the museums you want to see in order to save.
It includes admission to the SF Museum of Modern Art, the California Academy of Sciences, the Exploratorium, and more with a savings of up to 50%.
The SF Museum of Modern Art galleries are now open starting on Monday and Tuesday from 10 am to 5 pm. Thursdays from 1 pm to 8 pm. Friday and Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm.
The museum is closed Wednesdays.
The free public spaces open an hour earlier than the galleries, at 9 am.
The museum is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. Last admission is half an hour before closing. They are open all other holidays that do not fall on a Tuesday or Wednesday.
When is the best time to visit the SF Museum of Modern Art? My recommendation is to visit during the week if possible. Monday and Friday mornings are often not as busy. When they first open on Thursday at 1 p.m., you will also find it not as busy.
The busiest times are Thursday evenings and on the weekends.
However, the new museum has opened up the space quite a bit. You will find that even when the museum is busy, there is still plenty of space to spread out and enjoy their displays.
Ready to book? Book your advanced tickets.
How long should you plan for your visit? I typically visit a couple of times a year. Each time, I usually spend about two to three hours. If this is your first or only time, you might spend 3 to 4 hours here. If you like to walk through quickly, it will be only a couple of hours. If you enjoy really admiring the art, then plan for a little bit of a longer stay.
The newly expanded SF Museum of Modern Art currently has 19 exhibits. Four of them are ongoing. The others are temporary exhibits. New exhibits will be brought into these spaces regularly.
The four ongoing exhibits are:
>> Visit my exhibit calendar page for a list of all of their current and upcoming temporary exhibits as well as exhibits at other museums around town
I always love to point people in the direction of the most famous or popular pieces in each museum. These are just a few of the highlights I recommend you check out during your visit.
Note: They rotate their pieces often, so this list is subject to change.
Floor 2: Open Ended: Painting and Sculpture Since 1900 Henri Matisse: Marine (Bord de mer), 1906 painting
Floor 4: Approaching American Abstraction Clyfford Still: PH-919, 1974 painting
Floor 5: Pop, Minimal, and Figurative Art Andy Warhol: Triple Elvis [Ferus type], 1963
In the Summer of 2021, a large Diego Rivera piece moved to the SF Museum of Modern Art. This piece was on display at the City College for years and few people knew about it. I was able to visit it out there several times and am in awe each time I get the chance to see it.
It's by far his best piece of work on display in San Francisco. This massive fresco is 22 feet tall and 75 feet wide.
It's full of controversial topics. You will also find a few self portraits in it as well as one section with his wife at the time, Frida Kahlo.
The cool thing about this piece is that you can view it for no cost in their "free art" section. Even if you don't visit this museum, I highly recommend you stop by and spend a little time checking out this piece!
>> Learn more about this fresco and other Diego Riveras around SF
Are you allowed to take pictures? You are allowed to take pictures for personal use. You are not allowed to sell them or use them commercially unless specifically noted.
To preserve the work, flash photography is not allowed. You are also not allowed to use a tripod or selfie stick.
Do they have a restaurant? What are the hours? Yes, the museum does have a couple of food options.
Do they offer docent led tours? Yes, the SF Museum of Modern Art usually offers free docent led tours. Due to current health regulations, they are on hold. I'll update you once they start to offer them again.
Do they provide special audio tours? Headphones are not currently available for their regular audio tour. However, you can download their free audio app and access stories and more during your visit.
The SF Museum of Modern Art is easy to get to from all around San Francisco. It's about a half mile from Union Square, across the street from Yerba Buena Gardens, and just about a block from most of the Moscone Center.
However, if you do drive, there are several parking options nearby. Here are a few of my recommendations. Parking rates can change, but I've given you some estimates below.
Public transit is the best way to get to the SF Museum of Modern Art. They are centrally located in San Francisco's South of Market District and just a few blocks south of Market Street.
What is the best public transit to use to get here?
There are a number of options along Market Street that will get you within 10 minutes of the museum. Some of these include the 5, 7, and the 38. You can also access the museum using the 8, 30, 45, and 91 buses which will drop you off on either 4th Street or along Mission. All drop off within a couple of blocks of the museum.
From Union Square: If you are coming to the SF Museum of Modern Art from Union Square, your best option is to walk. It's about a half mile from the heart of Union Square and the walk is mostly flat. This will take about 10 to 15 minutes.
From Fisherman's Wharf: If you are coming from Fisherman's Wharf, you can take the #8 bus. Pick it up at the corner of Powell Street and North Point. You will get off the bus at the stop at 4th and Mission. You will then head east, past the Yerba Buena Gardens to the museum. The bus ride is about 30 minutes and the walk takes about 5 minutes.
>> More about getting around San Francisco
Which BART station is closest?
From the East Bay: If you are coming over from the east bay, the best BART Station for the SF Museum of Modern Art is the Montgomery Street Station. The walk is about 5 to 10 minutes.
From the South Bay: Those coming from the south bay should exit BART at the Powell Street Station. From here, it's about a 10-minute walk to the museum.
The SF Museum of Modern Art is ADA accessible. They offer a specific drop off area for those that are not able to walk in from the parking garage.
Inside, you will find level floors and elevators.
They allow service dogs that are under the control of the owner. They also offer free admission to anyone helping another guest with accessibility needs.
Services for Blind or Partially Sighted Guests
They offer a few services for those that are blind or partially sighted. You will find both Braille and large print versions of their maps at the ticketing desk. They also offer free audio content on their SF Museum of Modern Art app.
Services for Deaf or Hard of Hearing Visitors
Assisted listening devices are available to those at the museum free of charge. Just request the device when you enter.
If you need an ASL interpreter, please reach out to the museum at least two weeks in advance with your request.
They also have full text transcripts for each audio stop through their SF Museum of Modern Art app.
Do they offer wheelchair rentals? Yes, they offer manual wheelchairs free of charge. They are on a first-come, first-served basis, so they cannot guarantee that they will always have one available.
They also offer light weight, portable gallery stools for those that will need just a little extra support during their visit. You can use these to sit down for a few minutes anywhere in their galleries.
The SF Museum of Modern Art has a gift shop on their first level. It offers a variety of specialty items and gifts including books, note cards, bags, and more. They also offer jewelry, kid's items, puzzles, exhibition products, custom prints, and so much more.
It's the perfect place to find a gift for your art loving friends and family.
Can you enter the gift shop without visiting the museum? Yes, the museum store is accessible without needing to visit the museum.
The SF Museum of Modern Art first opened in 1935. It was originally called the San Francisco Museum of Art. It was the first museum on the west coast dedicated to modern art. It's first home was on the 4th floor in the War Memorial Veterans Building in the Civic Center District.
They added "modern" to the name of this museum in 1975. The SF Museum of Modern Art was one of the first to showcase photography as fine art.
The museum in the Civic Center District closed in 1994 and they opened the facility on 3rd Street in January 1995. Over the years, the museum was gifted a variety of important pieces from collectors from around the world.
As the museum expanded, they needed more room. The SF Museum of Modern Art closed in 2013 for their large renovation and expansion. The new museum which is almost three times its original size reopened in May 2016.
Comments? Questions? Suggestions?
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It’s a great place to interact with me and others that know the area well.
You can ask questions, get advice for your upcoming stay, and then share your photos and advice with others when you return home. It’s a great community and the fastest way to get answers to those nagging questions about your visit!