A tour of the museum will be a good orientation, but if you like to linger, perhaps you should forgo the tour.
SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Ansel Adams Center for Photography, in the South of Market neighborhood, represent the area's renaissance.
Museums, galleries, nightclubs, restaurants and retailers replace once abandoned buildings. Thousands of visitors and locals attend large conventions at the Moscone Convention Center. Culture seekers flock to the Yerba Buena Gardens complex, home to the Center for the Arts Galleries and Theater.
Across the street from the complex, a huge cylinder-shaped skylight crowns the 225,000-square-foot red brick building, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta, the museum's permanent collection includes more than 20,000 artworks. Botta used skylights to help illuminate the modern art collection of paintings and sculptures, photography, media arts and architecture and design collections.
Four levels: Visitors should plan to spend several hours to stroll through the four levels of galleries. While the whirlwind 30-minute docent-lead tour is a good orientation to the collection, I found the brisk pace a bit frustrating when I wanted to examine a particular work.
The tour began with several works by Henri Matisse, moved on to the Cubism of George Braque and proceeded onto the surrealist style of Rene Magritte, all in the course of about 10 minutes. Next, we were escorted through the post-war work of Jackson Pollack, Mark Rothko and Robert Motherwell, who were singled out among other renowned artist's works in the gallery. We strode past the pop art collection of Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol and Jim Dine.
Visitors should check the information desk for the times and topics of each tour. Be certain to allow yourself more time to appreciate the works at a leisurely pace.
The & quot;Points of Departure & quot; exhibition, which runs through Oct. 28, spans the entire fifth floor. The exhibit of 60 paintings, sculptures and photography from the museum's permanent collection examines thematically formal questions addressed in contemporary art.
Making a connection: The six galleries of brushwork, found objects, grids, language, line and style help visitors connect visually and conceptually with contemporary art. & quot;By grouping works and artist thematically, rather than by more traditional categories or time period of art historical movement, the exhibition offers artistic contracts and parallels that are illuminating as they are surprising, & quot; according to Lynne Kimura, a spokeswoman for the museum.
On Aug. 4, the & quot;Ansel Adams at 100 & quot; exhibit will open and run through Jan. 13, 2002. The show will feature 114 of Adams' work and commemorate the centennial of the photographer's birth. Known for his magnificent black and white nature photography, Adams died in 1984.
& quot;Ansel Adams was one of the great photographers of the century. He was also one of the best-loved spokesmen for the obligations we owe to the natural world, & quot; explained guest curator, John Szarkowski.
'Women' exhibit: You would expect to find some of Ansel Adams' photography around the corner at the Ansel Center for Photography. But through July 15, Annie Leibovitz's exhibit & quot;Women & quot; fills the gallery space. I learned that the center is dedicated to promoting and encouraging the development of creative photography, not just exhibiting Adams' work.
Some 50 large photograph portraits of women include celebrities such as Hillary Rodham Clinton, Serena and Venus Williams and Blythe Danner and her daughter Gwyneth Paltrow. Other photos portray women in more ordinary jobs as mothers, farmers, scientists and artists. Probably the most riveting of the collection are close-ups of Barbara A. Smith and Tammie Winfield, both victims of domestic abuse.
According to Leibovitz's artist's statement, & quot;These photographs are intended to show how we look and what we do. I'm very moved by the sense of dignity these women have. & quot;
The Mother Jones Photo Fund exhibit is a relatively small show that also runs through July 15. The exhibit features awards for documentary photography in six major regions of the world. One docent compared the different elements of subject and composition between documentary photography and the portrait photographs by Leibovitz.
If you go: The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is at 151 Third St. in downtown San Francisco. For more information, call (415) 357-4000 or visit the Web site at www.sfmoma.org.
Admission is $9 for adults, $6 for senior citizens and $5 for students. Thursday evenings are half-price and the first Tuesday of each month is free.
Hours are daily (except Wednesdays) 11 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. The museum is open until 8:45 p.m. Thursday evenings.