The second-largest US museum devoted to modern art, SFMOMA moved here from Civic Center in 1995, reaping enthusiastic approval as much for its $60-million design as for the improvement to the collections. Swiss architect Mario Botta's red-brick building, with its huge, circular skylight, is as dramatic from the outside as within, and still feels brand new. Don't miss the spectacular catwalk beneath the skylight, accessible from the top-floor galleries: though not recommended if you suffer vertigo, it offers a stunning view of the striped marble below.
The four floors of galleries that rise above the stark black-marble reception area house a solid permanent collection, with some 15,000 paintings, sculptures and works on paper, as well as thousands of photographs and a range of works related to the media arts. The collection includes works by artists as varied as René Magritte, Jeff Koons, Piet Mondrian (characteristically geometric) and Marcel Duchamp (a urinal). However, the special exhibits are the real draw. A Bay Area native, gallery director Neal Benezra returned to San Francisco in 2002 following a distinguished career at the Smithsonian and the Art Insititute of Chicago to bring a steady managerial hand and broad creative vision to the museum. His efforts can be seen in the continuing growth (both in physical size and the stature of its collections) and general renown of SFMOMA.