de Young Museum

The de Young Museum originated as the Fine Arts Building, which was constructed in Golden Gate Park for the California Midwinter International Exposition in 1894. The chair of the exposition organizing committee was Michael H. de Young, co-founder of the San Francisco Chronicle. The Fine Arts Building was designed in a pseudo–Egyptian Revival style.

Following the exposition, the building was designated as a museum for the people of San Francisco. Over the years, the de Young has grown from an attraction originally designed to temporarily house an eclectic collection of exotic oddities and curiosities to the foremost museum in the western United States concentrating on American art, international textile arts and costumes, and art of the ancient Americas, Oceania and Africa.

The new Memorial Museum was a success from its opening on March 24, 1895. No admission was charged, and most of what was on display had been acquired from the exhibits at the exposition. Eleven years after the museum opened, the great earthquake of 1906 caused significant damage to the Midwinter Fair building, forcing a year-and-a-half closure for repairs.

Before long, the museum's steady development called for a new space to better serve its growing audiences. Michael de Young responded by planning the building that would serve as the core of the de Young Museum facility through the 20th century. Louis Christian Mulgardt, the coordinator for architecture for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, designed the Spanish-Plateresque-style building. It was completed in 1919 and formally transferred by de Young to the city's park commissioners. In 1921, de Young added a central section, together with the tower that would become the museum's signature feature, and the museum began to assume the basic configuration that it retained until 2001. Michael de Young's great efforts were honored with the changing of the museum's name to the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum. Yet another addition, a west wing, was completed in 1925, the year de Young died. 

In 1989 the de Young suffered significant structural damage as a result of the Loma Prieta earthquake. For the next several years, the board actively sought solutions to the de Young's structural jeopardy and solicited feedback from throughout the community, conducting numerous visitor surveys and public workshops.

With extensive public input, the board initiated a process to plan and build a privately financed institution as a philanthropic gift to the city, in the tradition of M. H. de Young. An open architectural selection process took place from 1998 to 1999. The board endorsed a museum concept plan in October 1999, and a successful multimillion-dollar fundraising campaign was initiated under the leadership of board president Diane B. Wilsey.

The resulting design by the Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron weaves the museum into the natural environment of the park. It also provides open and light-filled spaces that facilitate and enhance the art-viewing experience. Historic elements from the former de Young, such as the sphinxes, the original palm trees, and the Pool of Enchantment, have been retained or reconstructed at the new museum. The former de Young Museum structure closed to the public on December 31, 2000. The new de Young opened on October 15, 2005.

According to The Art Newspaper (April 2012), the new museum is the most visited art museum west of the Mississippi, the sixth-most-visited art museum in North America, and the 35th-most visited in the world. Housed in a state-of-the-art, accessible, and architecturally significant facility, it provides valuable art experiences to generations of residents and visitors.

Listen to Diana Ketchum, architectural critic and essayist, provide her perspective on the architecture of the de Young.

 
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