Art with a view: Renovated Museum of Contemporary Art poised to reopen in La Jolla on April 9

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego is set to reopen its La Jolla flagship location Saturday, April 9.
The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego is set to reopen its La Jolla flagship location to the public on Saturday, April 9, after a four-year, multimillion-dollar renovation.
(Maha Bazzari)

After a four-year, $105 million renovation, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego plans to reopen its La Jolla flagship location to the public on Saturday, April 9.

The reopening, a free event from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., will feature two inaugural exhibitions and architectural tours of the newly named Joan and Irwin Jacobs Building, along with the opportunity to view the ocean-facing Art Park, new event spaces and outdoor terraces.

The museum, at 700 Prospect St., will follow the reopening celebration with Prebys Play Day, a new monthly family-focused event funded by the Conrad Prebys Foundation.

As it dismantles the construction fencing and integrates once more into the landscape of La Jolla, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego is unveiling the details of its renaissance.

Dec. 17, 2021

The public reopening will follow a private ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, April 5, and private events for donors and others April 5-8.

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's building in La Jolla now carries the name of Joan and Irwin Jacobs.
The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s building in La Jolla now carries the name of Joan and Irwin Jacobs, longtime supporters of MCASD.
(Stacy Keck)

The entire main building, previously unnamed, is now called the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Building in honor of longtime supporters Joan and Irwin Jacobs, whose $20 million provided the foundation for the museum’s extensive fundraising efforts.

“We are especially excited that many others will now have the opportunity to enjoy great contemporary art with this beautiful expansion of MCASD in La Jolla,” Irwin Jacobs said in a statement.

MCASD Chief Executive Kathryn Kanjo looks out over Cuvier Street from one of the La Jolla museum's new windows.
(Stacy Keck)

Kathryn Kanjo, the David C. Copley director and chief executive of MCASD, said in a statement that the Jacobses’ philanthropy “enables nonprofit organizations such as MCASD to look to the future, allowing the innovation of art and ideas to come to fruition.”

The Jacobses further celebrated MCASD’s La Jolla reopening with the donation of two additional sculptures: a stainless-steel pumpkin with colorful polka dots by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama and an oversize stack of lead books by German painter and sculptor Anselm Kiefer.

MCASD’s renovations doubled the museum’s square footage to 104,400. The museum now boasts four times the previous gallery space, two levels of galleries, a public park and new terraces overlooking the coastline.

New terraces overlook the coastline at MCASD's renovated La Jolla location.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Interior spaces were renovated as new spaces were added, all designed by Selldorf Architects.

Kanjo said “the design honors the museum’s rich architectural history as it frames distinctive views of The Village and the coast, providing an updated space for the art and for today’s audience.”

One of the inaugural exhibitions, “Selections from the Collection,” will highlight works from the more than 5,600 in the museum’s collection, curated since 1950 and including pieces by John Baldessari, Larry Bell, Sam Gilliam, Robert Irwin, Barbara Kruger, Bruce Nauman, Helen Pashgian, Martin Puryear, Marcos Ramírez ERRE and more. The exhibit will be accompanied by a printed 460-page handbook.

The expansive suite of Strauss gallery spaces will function as a special exhibits hall at MCASD in La Jolla.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

The museum’s new 6,800-square-foot special exhibition space, called the Iris & Matthew Strauss Galleries, will host “Niki de Saint Phalle in the 1960s,” the first exhibit to focus on the experimental and prolific work of French American artist de Saint Phalle, who spent her last years in La Jolla and died in 2002. The exhibition, co-curated by The Menil Collection in Houston, will feature major paintings, sculptures and assemblages from the artist’s career. It will begin April 9 and run until July.

In the fall, MCASD will present “Alexis Smith: The American Way,” the first retrospective of the California artist in more than 25 years.

A full events schedule and details will be posted at

“We look forward to inviting the public to explore our world, our region and ourselves through the prism of contemporary art,” Kanjo said. ◆