The Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM) was founded in 1984 in San Francisco, California, with the goal of offering contemporary perspectives on Jewish culture, history, art, and ideas. In June 2008, the Museum moved to the Yerba Buena district of San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood, into a new building designed by architect Daniel Libeskind.
The museum began in 1984 as the Jewish Community Museum located in San Francisco’s financial district. Ten years later, the board decided to move to Yerba Buena Gardens on Mission Street. Architect Peter Eisenman proposed a design for the new building, but the museum’s trustees and local residents rejected it. In 1998, the museum hired Daniel Libeskind and construction began in 2006. The museum has no permanent collection. Based on its mission, "to make the Jewish experience relevant for a twenty-first century audience," it curates and hosts a broad array of exhibitions, such as “In the Beginning: Artists Respond to Genesis,” "From The New Yorker to Shrek: The Art of William Steig," and "Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories." throughout the year. Former Whitney Museum curator Connie Wolf was the museum’s director from 1999 to 2012. Lori Starr, former executive director of the Koffler Centre of the Arts (Toronto, CN), was appointed the museum's director in 2013.
Daniel Libeskind designed the 63,000 square foot (5,900 square meter) museum, which occupies and extends the 1907 Jessie Street Power Substation, originally designed by Willis Polk. Delays and budget issues forced Libeskind to alter his original design for the building, which was completed in 2008. The museum cost $47.5 million to build.
Critics, such as Christopher Hawthorne of the Los Angeles Times, praise Libeskind for a “careful balance of explosive and well-behaved forms” and gallery designs that abandon the architect’s characteristic slanted walls. Likewise, David D’Arcy of the Wall Street Journal sees the museum as a laudable departure from Libeskind’s previous work. He finds a “lightness to this [museum] that is rare in the architect’s work” and that “relieves the surrounding district’s glass and steel tourist-mall monotony.” D’Arcy, however, bemoans the project’s budgetary restrictions, which he argues are apparent in the museum’s “architecturally clumsy” multi-purpose space.