After 40 years of delays and false starts, San Francisco’s Mexican Museum is finally getting a new home in the Yerba Buena Art District next to the Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM).
City and museum officials have scheduled a dedication and cornerstone dedication for Tuesday morning.
The museum outgrew its current home in Fort Mason years ago, says museum chairman, Andrew Kluger.
“This is the single largest collection of Mexican, Latino, and Chicano art in the U.S., with 17,000 pieces,” Kluger said. Those include about 800 pieces of Mexican folk art donated by the family of Nelson Rockefeller and work by Mexican artist Diego Rivera.
Kluger, hired three years ago, says the new space will make it the largest Mexican Museum in the U.S., measuring 60,000 square feet, almost nine times the size of the Fort Mason space and about the same as the CJM and the Jumex Museum in Mexico.
But raising the money for the new building, Kluger says, took some work. “It required really a business perspective, and we had to take this museum from a community museum to a national museum level."
Construction of the new museum was delayed again and again, by legal and financial problems, and by clashing egos.
“The first change," Kluger says, "was a complete change in the board of directors. We needed to bring in talent who could raise serious money."
Kluger and the board raised half the cost of construction cost, $30 million, by selling the air rights, the space above the museum’s four floors, to a developer who will build a luxury condo tower. The museum also passed a grueling accreditation process, that itself cost $300,000, to win an affiliation with the Smithsonian Museums. That, Kluger says will make it the Mexican Museum eligible for grants from non-profits and federal funds.
Kluger says the museum can also count on help and loans of art from the Mexican government, including Frida and Me, about Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, the first show scheduled after its opening in the spring of 2019.
Kluger says there’s more fund raising to do, $30 million for the endowment and to fully furnish the museum’s interior. Among other donors, Edward James Olmos has pledged to raise $250,000.
Kluger notes one man will be sadly missing at the dedication. Peter Rodriguez, who founded the museum in a Mission District storefront in 1975, died at the age of 90 on June 30, after years battling Parkinson’s Disease.
“I think he would be very proud," Kluger says.