SAN FRANCISCO — Before the museum moved into Mario Botta's spectacular building, it was housed on the fourth floor of the War Memorial Veterans Building in San Francisco's Civic Center.
As a private museum housed in a public building, the organization grappled with grossly inadequate quarters, poor temperature and humidity controls, and an inability to display its permanent collection. Major touring exhibitions stayed away.
Among the museum trustees, major private collections existed or were rapidly forming. Perhaps most critically, and to their chagrin, the trustees themselves were not inspired to donate individual works of art from their collections to the museum.
In the early 1980s, led by trustee and real estate developer Gerson Bakar, plans were researched into expanding the museum on its present site or finding a new location. Mr. Bakar was fascinated by the synergism of art and real estate he saw in New York, particularly the Equitable Life Assurance building partnership with the Whitney Museum.
Paralleling the trustees' search, an enormous and controversial urban renewal project called Yerba Buena Center was taking shape after 30 years of political bickering.
The museum eventually negotiated a 1988 agreement with the city and county redevelopment agency for a site on the eastern corridor of Yerba Buena at a cost of $1. The capital campaign, launched the same year, grew into one of the largest fund-raising efforts ever undertaken for an American museum. More than $65 million of the $85 million required for construction and endowment was donated by the trustees. On Jan. 12, museum director John Lane announced that the goal had been exceeded: The campaign brought in more than $90 million. Botta's 225,000-square-foot building was done on time and on budget.
``The sun, the moon, and the stars were lined up for this museum,'' Bakar said recently.