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Completion up to seven years away

Museum of Contemporary Art names architect for La Jolla expansion

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego has named Selldorf Architects for a planned expansion of the institution's La Jolla gallery.

Selldorf, based in New York City, is a 60-person firm with such clients as the Neue Galerie in New York City; the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass.; and the New York City-based Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.

Selldorf has also created numerous museums galleries and displays from Beverly Hills to Venice, Italy.

A national search effort for the architect started last year.

An architectural selection committee headed by Paul Jacobs, Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM) chairman, and a fellow museum board member Colette Carson Royston, then selected Selldorf.

Hugh Davies, the MCASD's David C. Copley director and chief executive officer, said while the 73-year-old museum is able to accommodate a 10,000-square-foot traveling exhibition, more than 4,500 artworks are relegated to storage.

“We’re absolutely thrilled to share our internationally renowned collection with the rest of the world,” said Davies, “We will be able to truly function as a museum of contemporary art, showing the history of contemporary art, with galleries devoted to movements such as minimalism, abstraction, pop and more.

"Sharing this collection of works with the community is our civic duty," he added. "It’s time for our masterpieces by artists like Ellsworth Kelly and Andy Warhol to grace our walls on a permanent basis.”

The proposed expansion of the building that was once the home of philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps, would add 20,000 square feet for a total of 30,000 square feet capable of exhibiting 200 to 300 artworks at a time.

"We'll be able to have our own permanent exhibits and permanent education programs," Davies said.

Davies said he expects the expanded portions of the property will be brought to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards.

"We're committed to adding a lot more solar panels and drought-resistant landscaping as well," Davies added.

The museum has set a fundraising goal of $50 million, of which about $30 million will go for planning design and construction.

Davies said the remaining $20 million is to go towards a museum endowment fund that will be needed to not only bring in new works, but to physically maintain the property.

"It's incredibly hard to keep up a building like this in La Jolla, Davies said. "You have all the rust and salt … It's almost like maintaining a ship."

About 90 percent of the $50 million is expected to come from individual donors. The other 10 percent could come from grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

"We wouldn't get any local government or state monies for this," Davies continued.

Leah Straub, the museum's communications and marketing manager, said Selldorf Architects should have its schematic drawings by this fall.

The remaining timetable will depend on how long it takes to get required permits.

The plan will first be presented to the La Jolla Town Council for its input. It will then need to go to the San Diego City Council and the California Coastal Commission before moving forward.

"This is going to be a very thorough and rigorous process," Davies said.

Davies said that completion of the project is five to seven years away, and the La Jolla museum will need to be closed during the estimated two years of construction.

Davies explained that the good news for the museum is its other location at 1001 Kettner Boulevard in downtown San Diego has 16,000 square feet that may be used for display and storage.

"That space was opened in 1993 as part of the One America Plaza complex," Davies continued.

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