How to Tackle Your First Visit to the new SFMOMA

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How to Tackle Your First Visit to the new SFMOMA
With a footprint nearly the size of the Whitney and the New York Museum of Modern Art put together—that’s seven miles of art walk over seven floors—the reopened SFMOMA is a lot to take on. Here’s where to begin.
Photo by Andrew Richdale
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    Bridge the Gap
    For the best view of where the old SFMoMA—the building designed by Mario Botta—merges with the new SFMoMA—the one designed by the Snøhetta firm—head for the Oculus Bridge on the fifth floor. Snøhetta architect Craig Dykers removed the original, closed staircase beneath the oculus, allowing light to flood in from above and visitors to look down on the new, more open Snøhetta staircase from the dizzying mesh bridge.
    Photo by Andrew Richdale
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    A Worth-It Audio Tour
    I have never LOL-ed in a museum before. But five minutes into “I Don’t Get It,” one of nine immersive walks in SFMoMA’s revolutionary new app—developed in partnership with Detour—I found myself standing in front of Georges Braque’s famous paintingNature Morte (Violon et Compotier) and doing just that, as comedian Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) riffed on the meaning of cubism. But the app’s true brilliance is this: Your narrators walk you through the galleries while the app tracks your location, so you can put your iPhone in your pocket and focus on the wild modern art instead. 

    Georges Braque, Nature Morte (Violon et Compotier), also titled Still Life (Violin and Candlestick), 1910; oil on canvas; 24 x 19 3/4 in. (60.96 x 50.17 cm); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, gift of Rita B. Schreiber in loving memory of her husband, Taft Schreiber; © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
    Photo by Katherine Du Tiel
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    Eat a Painting
    Chef Corey Lee’s new food project, In Situ, is less a restaurant than an archive of the world’s best dishes (current count: 24). Travel back to the 1994 opening of the French Laundry with Thomas Keller’s Liberty Duck Breast, a bowl of tiny green lentils topped with seared duck. Or hop to Spain’s Mugaritz restaurant via the Interpretation of Vanity, a rectangle of intensely chocolaty cake half hidden by savory cocoa bubbles and accented with a swipe of edible gold paint.
    Photo courtesy of In Situ/Instagram
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    Be Selfie Aware
    Even in a museum intentionally designed to be playful and boundaryless, the late artist Duane Hanson’s Policeman stands out. Part of the pop, minimal, and figurative collection, the eerily lifelike sculpture, complete with functional watch and realistic veins, is both a comment on the people the world often overlooks and an Instagram magnet.
    Photo by Alex Palomino
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    A Cultured Revival
    Rest your feet at the new Sightglass café on floor three. A cold-brew coffee made with Madagascar vanilla bean, topped with milk and served in a Collins glass, will recharge your batteries for the Calder exhibit next door.
    Photo courtesy of Sightglass
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    Bring it Home
    Among the usual artsy suspects at the SFMoMA Museum Store are a few objects designed specially for the museum by local artists, including a cranelike task lamp that you can adjust from cool light to warm light.

    Fade Task Light: Red; designed by Bret Recor and Seth Murray
    Photo courtesy of Fade Studio
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    Editor’s Pick, Part I
    “With paintings from Gerhard Richter and Anselm Kiefer, the German expressionism wing is a powerful and revealing tour of postwar consciousness.” —Julia Cosgrove, editor-in-chief 

    Elke im Lehnstuhl (Elke in Armchair), Georg Baselitz, 1976
    Photo by Aislyn Greene
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    Editor’s Pick, Part II
    “Don’t miss the very young, very talented Texan photographer Bryan Schutmaat, whose photos of modern Americana fit right into the inaugural California and the West exhibit at the new Pritzker Center for Photography.” —Tara Guertin, director of photography

    Bryan Schutmaat, Tonopah, 2012; inkjet print; 22 x 27 1/2 in. (55.88 x 69.85 cm); promised gift of William Goodman and Victoria Belco; © Bryan Schutmaat
    Photo by © Bryan Schutmaat
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    The Big Finale
    When museum fatigue sets in, head to Richard Serra’s Sequence sculpture. The massive, S-shaped maze of angled rusted steel is quiet, often uncrowded, and soothing to overloaded senses. 

    Photo by © Henrik Kam, courtesy SFMOMA
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