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Virtual Earth map of SF MOMA - Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA

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The first museum on the West Coast devoted solely to 20th-century art, the San Francisco Museum of Art opened in 1935 under the direction of Grace L. McCann Morley. After her 23-year tenure, Morley was succeeded as Museum director by George D. Culler (1958–65) and Gerald Nordland (1966–72). The Museum, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1985, rose to international prominence under the leadership of Henry T. Hopkins (1974–86). "Modern" was added to the Museum's title in 1975 to describe its purview more accurately.

John R. Lane was appointed director of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) from 1987 to 1997. Under his direction, the Museum established three new curatorial posts—curator of painting and sculpture, curator of architecture and design and curator of media arts—and elevated the positions of director of education and director of photography to full curatorial roles. Subsequently, SFMOMA undertook an extremely active special exhibitions program, both organizing and hosting traveling exhibitions. In January 1995, SFMOMA opened a new museum facility in the burgeoning South of Market district, designed by renowned Swiss architect Mario Botta.

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