Soaring gallery
A soaring gallery in the expanded museum. Photo by Chris Jennewein

San Diego civic and political leaders cut a ribbon Tuesday to open a “magnificent and massive” expansion of the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla.

Along with gallery space tripling to 105,000 square feet — on par with new Whitney Museum in New York City — the four-year project created soaring new galleries with dramatic ocean views to showcase a collection of 5,600 works from 1950 to the present.

The museum will open to the public on Saturday, with free admission so that San Diegans can experience what Mayor Todd Gloria called “a piece of art within itself.”

Gloria said the expanded MCASD, along with the new Rady Shell on the bay and renovated Mingei Museum in Balboa Park, are signs of “new hope” in the aftermath of the coronavirus Pandemic.

“The arts are helping to lead us out of this dark time,” said Gloria. “We want to make sure that art is integral to what we do in this city.”

Gathered in front of the museum on Prospect Street for the ribbon cutting were museum Director and CEO Kathryn Kanjo, architect Annabelle Selldorf, museum board President Paul Jacobs, and his parents, philanthropists Joan and Irwin Jacobs.

Mayor Todd Gloria (left), museum Director Kathryn Kanjo, Joan and Irwin Jacobs, architect Annabelle Selldorf and Paul Jacobs and his family. Photo by Chris Jennewein

The younger Jacobs noted that his parents have been instrumental in supporting the museum for decades, and he recalled a fundraising art auction held at his childhood home.

He thanked his parents and the community for raising the $105 million required to transform the museum, and noted that 15 gifts were in excess of $1 million.

“I look forward to us as a community enjoying this museum for many decades to come,” he said.

The museum will inaugurate its new 6,800-square-foot special exhibition galleries with “Niki de Saint Phalle in the 1960s,” the first exhibition to focus on the experimental and prolific work of revolutionary French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle, who lived in San Diego late in her career. The dramatic 20-foot ceilings will provide a one-of-a-kind showcase for this beloved artist’s largest works.  

The museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Chris Jennewein

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