The museum was founded as the San Francisco Museum of Art under the leadership of director Grace Morley in 1935. A gift of 36 artworks from Albert M. Bender, including The Flower Carrier by Diego Rivera, served as the basis for the permanent collection. In its second year, the museum hosted an exhibit of the works of Henri Matisse. The museum established its photography collection that same year, becoming one of the first museums to recognize photography as a fine art. In 1940, it held its first architecture exhibition, Telesis: Space for Living, and in 1945, was host to Jackson Pollock's first solo museum exhibition. Under the leadership of director Henry T. Hopkins (1974-86), the museum added "Modern" to its name in 1975.
SFMOMA moved to its current location just a short walk from downtown San Francisco in 1995. Designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta, the iconic building has become a hub of the South of Market (SoMa) area. It is a five-story building with a brick façade topped by a towering cylindrical turret of alternating bands of black and white stone.
Today, SFMOMA is home to an internationally recognized collection of some 26,000 works of photography, painting, sculpture, architecture, design, and media arts. The collection contains important modern and contemporary works by Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Rauschenberg, René Magritte, Piet Mondrian, Marcel Duchamp, Alexander Calder, Andy Warhol, Henri Matisse, Paul Klee and Ansel Adams, among many others. Each year, the museum hosts more than 20 exhibitions and hundreds of educational programs.