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de Young Museum

Grand Opening

When it started taking shape in Golden Gate Park much debate surrounded the appearance of the new De Young museum's exterior. Some loved it and some loathed it. Whatever your opinion of its giant copper fašade, the building is one that does not take full shape until it is entered and explored.

The new facility was constructed with the aim of highlighting the museum's vast range of artwork and the interconnectedness of artistic expression across cultures and eras. All this while simultaneously encouraging an organic transition from park to museum grounds through the cohesion of architecture and landscape. All told a big request -- and one that has been seen to fruition.

The galleries flow into each other seamlessly but are each aesthetically distinct, encouraging an expansive consideration of the artwork without limiting physical confines. In particular areas, works from distinctly different periods and cultures are displayed side-by0side encouraging exploration of artistic traditions and legacies. Nine galleries on the second floor contain works from the colonial era to the early 20th century. These traditionally sized rooms are intimately styled with wood flooring and lighting, which evoke the historic periods and spaces in which these pieces would have been originally displayed. Nine galleries on the first floor contain works from the modernist period to the present. These galleries feature high ceilings, natural lighting and overall a more voluminous space from which to view the large-scale contemporary works.

Similar attention has been paid to rendering the galleries for the Art of Africa, Oceania and the Americas in appropriate material and scale, featuring natural materials and warm low lighting. Additionally, the new Connections Gallery will present site-specific works by contemporary artists, which reinterpret traditional objects from the de Young's collection in a new way. A specially designed area on the second-floor will also house a new gallery for display of the museum's collection of photographs and photographic works on loan.

Also new to the museum are five site-specific commissions by contemporary. Gerard Richter's large-scale photographic mural, Strontium is featured prominently in the main lobby and achieves a joining of the interior and exterior spaces, with its pattern of undulating circles reminiscent of the copper shell of the new building. Andy Goldsworthy's piece is almost unnoticeable upon entrance to the museum, where it appears to be just an arrangement of medium-sized boulders. It wasn't until I was on the second-floor of the new building at the top of the main staircase looking down from a window that I viewed the magic of this marvel. A tiny almost threadlike crack ran through each rock, meandered between them and then wandered off, up toward the museum entrance and back down toward the street. The discovery of looking is the joy of the new de Young -- the exploration of different views and the meaning of their connection, both inside the space, between creations, and outside the space, between art, architecture and nature.

The new de Young museum will open FREE to the public for a 31-hour "museum marathon" starting at noon on Saturday October 15 until 5 pm on Sunday October 16.

For programming details and regular hours go to or call 415-750-3614.