History

 
 

Founded in 1941 as The Art Center in La Jolla, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) has evolved into an organization of national and international renown. The collection includes more than 4,700 works created since 1950, and reflects an artistic program that encourages promising emerging artists and recognizes mid-career artists whose work deserves more visibility. The Museum serves the region as a vital cultural and civic asset, with contemporary art and living artists at its core.

The La Jolla location was originally an Irving Gill-designed residence, built in 1916 as the home of philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps. Today, MCASD La Jolla comprises nearly three acres of prime oceanfront property, including the Edwards Sculpture Garden. Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates' renovation of MCASD's La Jolla location opened in 1996.

In 1993, following a series of storefront gallery locations in downtown San Diego in the late 1980s, MCASD opened a permanent downtown location in America Plaza at 1001 Kettner Boulevard, across the street from the Santa Fe Depot. In a building by architect Helmut Jahn, the Museum's interiors were designed by the artists-architect team of Robert Irwin, Richard Fleischner, and David Raphael Singer.

In January 2007, MCASD expanded the downtown location with the opening of two Richard Gluckman-designed buildings across the street from the 1001 Kettner location, and major commissioned site-specific works by Jenny Holzer, Richard Serra, Richard Wright, and Roman de Salvo. The Joan and Irwin Jacobs Building (formerly the Santa Fe Depot baggage building built in 1915-16) features light-filled galleries and large spaces suitable for the presentation of large-scale installations and site-specific works. The David C. Copley Building includes The Berglund Room for lectures and programs, The Woods Terrace for events, and The Betlach Family Foundation education room for hands-on, interactive art activities.

In October 2016, on the occasion of the Museum’s 75th anniversary, MCASD announced a $75 million capital campaign to expand the La Jolla location. Designed by New York City-based firm, Selldorf Architects, the expansion aims to quadruple current gallery space, making room to show MCASD’s world-class, 4,700-piece collection of contemporary art. When MCASD reopens, it will be able to simultaneously exhibit its collection as well as changing exhibitions, functioning as a museum of modern and contemporary art with today’s artists exhibited alongside celebrated masters of the past.