The M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, commonly referred to as the de Young, is a fine arts museum located in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, and one of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco along with the Legion of Honor. The de Young is named for early San Francisco newspaperman M. H. de Young. Since Nov 1, 2018, Thomas P. Campbell serves as the Director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, overseeing the de Young and Legion of Honor museums.
Founded in 1895 in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, the de Young Museum has been an integral part of the city’s cultural fabric and a popular destination for millions of residents and visitors to the region for over 100 years.
On 15 October 2005, the de Young Museum reopened a new state-of-the-art facility that integrates art, architecture and natural landscapes into a multi-faceted destination that will inspire audiences from around the world. Designed by the renowned Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron and Fong & Chan Architects in San Francisco, the new de Young has provided San Francisco with a landmark art museum to showcase the museum’s invaluable collections of American art from the 17th to the 20th century, as well as textiles and art from Africa, Oceania and the Americas.
Founding pieces in the collection were purchased from the California International Midwinter Exhibition in 1894. From that time on, de Young’s collections of African art, like most of the major American museums, grew in random fashion rather than design — enriched in part by purchases, but mostly by donations from entrepreneurs, travelers, educators, and even volunteers in the Peace Corps. Research on their history is ongoing.
Since 1971, when the Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas was founded, the collection has been developed to showcase the richness and diversity of art from sub-Saharan Africa. A few works go back to the great civilizations of Africa, including the kingdoms of Mali, Ghana and Songye, which have maintained major commercial centers and corresponding trade routes. At the entrance to the gallery, visitors will find the oldest wooden sculpture in the collection, probably commemorating a great ancestor, dated at least to the 13th century. Nearby, an ancient motherhood figure from Mali made of terracotta could also represent a legendary or founding ancestor.
Most of the collection dates from the 19th century through the mid-20th century, when enormous political, economic , and religious changes have had an impact on art and culture in many societies through colonialism , imperialism, war, and globalism. A large case in the center of the gallery includes stools, a form of seating common to many cultural groups; they are expertly crafted to be functional but also expressive in form and decoration. Chairs were introduced by Europeans and then adapted and decorated in local styles, such as the highly decorated royal chair from Ghana.
The current building was completed by the architects Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron and Fong + Chan and opened on 15 October 2005. Structural, civil and geotechnical engineering was provided by Rutherford & Chekene; mechanical and electrical engineering was provided by Arup. Herzog & de Meuron won the competition in January 1999 to beat the other short-listed architects Tadao Ando and Antoine Predock.The land and seismic activity in San Francisco was a challenge for the designers Herzog & de Meuron and the main architects Fong & Chan. To help with future earthquakes, “the building can move up to three feet due to a system of ball-bearing sliding plates and viscous fluid dampers that absorbs kinetic energy and converts it to heat.”
The new museum structure in the middle of the urban park was initially controversial. San Francisco voters have twice defeated bond measures to fund the new museum project. After the second defeat, the museum itself planned to relocate to the financial district. But the effort of generous supporters arose and kept the museum in Golden Gate Park.