The Mingei International Museum tower under renovation in a view from the Alcazar Garden. Photo by Ron Kerner.

The Mingei International Museum’s three-year transformation is nearing an end, with the fully renovated folk art institution scheduled to reopen in Balboa Park in the late summer.

The improvements to the 1915 Spanish Colonial-style House of Charm include an additional 10,000 square feet of exhibition space, a full-size theater, and new amenities including a bistro, gift shop and coffee bar.

“Mingei’s transformation of our historic facility will redefine our relationship to our beloved Balboa Park, the entire San Diego community, the region and the world,” said Rob Sidner, the museum’s executive director and chief executive officer. “This extraordinary renovation of a city-owned building is our gift back to the park and to the city — one that will endure for generations to come.”

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria called the renovation a “bold, inspirational project” that will benefit the entire city. “The renovated and reimagined museum is one of many things we have to look forward to when we can all come together again,” Gloria said.

After two years of design, planning and fundraising, demolition began in September 2018 with full construction commencing one year later.

Among the noteworthy elements in the design by San Diego architectural firm LUCE et studio are:

  • A commons level free to the public with permanent art as well as the gift shop and bistro
  • A renovated second level with 50,000 square feet of gallery space
  • A grand new staircase leading to the second-level galleries set in the building’s historic tower, a space never before occupied
  • A 120-seat theater with a retractable 40-foot glass wall opening onto a new amphitheater with unobstructed views of Palm Canyon
  • Niki de Saint Phalle‘s Nikigator will once again welcome visitors into the museum.
  • Another de Saint Phalle sculpture, The Poet and His Muse, will welcoming visitors through the brand-new entrance in Alcazar Garden.

Mingei is still actively engaged in a fundraising campaign, with a goal of $55 million to cover the entire project. So far $41 million has been raised.

After the reopening, museum hours will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week, with expanded evening hours until 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays. Admission to the second floor gallery level will be $14.

Show comments

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.