A Family Review: San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art

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Published Feb 23, 2015

There’s nothing like a tower of brains to get a little boy excited about the arts.  And my 7-year-old twin boys were no exception.  Despite the oddly accurate flour-sack-turned-hairy-man-chest to its left and the bathroom-urinal-turned-art immediately behind, my sons couldn’t take their eyes off the tower of brains.

Oh modern art! What a perplexing form of expression. Where a urinal turned on its side becomes sculpture and a sack of flour covered with white paint and chest hair is enough to leave people deep in thought.

Despite having to screen a few galleries before entering with my children (there are some words I’d like my early readers to not practice reading), San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art can be a great outing for young children. Besides the curious oddities (tower of brains!), I also noticed a contrast between SFMOMA and other art museums we’ve visited. For starters, I didn’t feel the need to shush my kids if they spoke to me in anything more than a whisper; the entire museum seemed more vibrant and alive. Sure, the pieces are weird (let’s be honest!) but most the exhibits are bright, engaging, and thought-provoking, even for a child.  Loud colors on massive canvases, giant metal bug sculptures, and a wall mural of eyeballed mushrooms? What kid wouldn’t love it?

Even if you can’t appreciate the Cubism of Georges Braque’s Violin and Candlestick or the Abstract Expressionism of Clyfford Still, you can at least sit back and enjoy the craziness of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Frequency and Volume interactive radio station exhibit. Or stare in wonder at James Rosenquist’s larger-than-life pencils and wonder why on earth he titled such a piece Leaky Ride for Dr. Leakey (because he can, I guess?).

Although it’s not as hands-on as a children’s museum (see my ChatterBlock review for the San Jose’s Children’s Discovery Museum), the SFMOMA is a great family outing if you’re willing to take the time to engage your child and explore the art at their level.  We opted to use SFMOMA’s free Not Your Ordinary Treasure Hunt child activity guides which had us skipping, side-stepping, and counting our paces as we explored each gallery. At one point, it even had us role-playing; the kids picked a piece of art and had to pretend they were the artist and explain their artistic vision. What fun!

Once finished exploring, we stopped in at the rooftop garden to let the boys finish sketching in their activity guides, take in the interesting outdoor sculptures, and enjoy treats from a San Francisco favorite, the Blue Bottle Coffee Bar.

Children may balk at the idea of going to an art gallery but I believe exposing our kids to this kind of culture is one of those “mom knows best” situations. They’ll thank you when they’re older.



Adult admission is $18 and kids under 12 are free.  For less than $20, it’s a great solo outing for you and your brood! If Mom and Dad both want to go, the SFMOMA Family Membership ($150) gives you unlimited admission for two named adults and children under 17 as well as two additional adult guests — great for when family comes to visit! You can also extend free admission to an adult caregiver when they accompany your child — which is a fun outing for the nanny or the grandparents. Visit the SFMOMA site for more Family Membership benefits.


Next Family Free Day
Sunday, February 24, 2013
11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Free for families with children 12 and under.

Free Tuesdays
Admission is free on the first Tuesday of every month.

Find more family info on the SFMOMA website.

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Natasha Drisdelle

Written by Natasha Drisdelle

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