We saw two new modern-art museums this summer: the Broad in Los Angeles and SFMOMA in San Francisco. Both feature spectacular buildings and predictable art; both are worth the trip. The Broad, for obvious reasons, is much the smaller: it houses one couple’s collection; whereas SFMOMA has history and a whole, very rich, city supporting the Fisher family collection, which itself is probably a match for the Broads. In one sense that is an advantage, because it is easy to see the whole museum in the morning and have a nice lunch before going home. The permanent collection is housed on one floor, with the ground floor reserved for special exhibitions – in our case, Cindy Sherman. Like the Fishers, the Broads have collected “in depth,” so there are whole rooms of an artist, rather than an encyclopedic survey. But whereas the Broad has one stunning gallery of Ellsworth Kellys, SFMOMA has four!

The spaces of SFMOMA remind me more of the new Whitney, and I think they both have seven floors for their displays. The wood floors, large light-filled galleries and outdoor conversation breaks are also similar. But SFMOMA is just bigger, which is its greatest strength but also its problem. In six hours I was only able to make a cursory tour and had to skip the Shirin Neshat video, among other things. I don’t know how you’d decide to see only part, but on a return visit I could concentrate, perhaps. Assuming they don’t change exhibits too often, that is. The absolute highlights for me were the Agnes Martin room (so superior to the Martin show at LACMA this summer), the first Kelly gallery (and I don’t usually particularly like his work), the Anselm Kiefers and the representative northern California artists, including Jess.

The overriding impression, though, from our first visit to SFMOMA is the room the art is given to breathe. There is no effort to cram things in. By giving so many artists their own space – Clyfford Still and Philip Guston also come to mind – they are able to communicate more directly, more clearly, than in the usual modern art museum. If only I could give them the time.