Collaborative and Traveling Exhibitions, Site-Specific and Commissioned Projects, and New Education Initiatives Will Create Fresh Ways to Experience SFMOMA's Collection and Programs

June 19, 2012
Last updated: April 26, 2013


Teresita Fernández, Fire, 2005; silk yarn, steel armature, and epoxy; 96 x 144 in. (243.84 x 365.76 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase; © Teresita Fernández

As part of the next phase of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)’s expansion project, the museum will go beyond its walls and directly into the community  with extensive off-site programming while its building is temporarily closed for construction from the summer of 2013 to early 2016. SFMOMA will present a dynamic slate of jointly organized and traveling museum exhibitions, outdoor and site-specific installations, and newly created education programs that will unfold throughout the Bay Area and beyond.

Throughout the approximately two-and-a-half- year span leading up to the inauguration of the new building, SFMOMA will experiment with new ideas, engage in dialogue with a range of cultural partners, and create innovative ways for audiences to experience the museum’s collection, bringing the best of these ideas and initiatives back into its newly expanded home. Additional off-site programs are currently in development; as plans evolve, more details will be announced.

During the final four days before closure—Thursday, May 30 through Sunday, June 2, 2013—museum admission and all related festivities will be free to all. A special Countdown Celebration will activate the entire museum with ways to mark this extraordinary moment of transformation for SFMOMA and to kick off a new chapter in its 78-year history. Festivities include a rooftop party with live music, a 24-hour live art variety show, all-night gallery access, a special day for families, and more.

Following the celebrations, SFMOMA will launch out of the building and be on the go, presenting new art experiences around the Bay Area. Beginning in June 2013, SFMOMA will co-organize thematic exhibitions at partner museums featuring works drawn either entirely or in part from SFMOMA’s holdings. Projects are still in development, but highlights include an exhibition at the Contemporary Jewish Museum considering connections between spirituality and modern and contemporary art; a presentation at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts that takes SFMOMA’s growing collection of South African photography as a starting point; and an exhibition at the Asian Art Museum that taps the collections of both SFMOMA and the Asian to spark intriguing dialogues about beauty in Asian and Western art.

Additional projects feature a yearlong outdoor installation of Mark di Suvero’s large-scale sculptures at historic Crissy Field near the Golden Gate Bridge; an off-site exhibition featuring newly commissioned works by leading contemporary artists at Los Altos, in the heart of Silicon Valley; and a multi-location display of Doug Aitken’s Empire trilogy (2008–14), which will present all three video installations simultaneously for the first time. SFMOMA will also bring touring presentations of its renowned photography collection to communities throughout California, create new partnerships with local schools, and develop creative educational projects in collaboration with both local and international artists.

“SFMOMA is more than just a building,” says SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra. “We’re a set of intersecting cultural communities. As we reimagine our new home, we’re also rethinking who we want to be in the future, and what better way to find inspiration than in conversation with others. We look forward to fully exploring what it means to be a museum during this phase, while broadening access to our collection in ways that foster a sense of community ownership of the collective cultural riches of the city and celebrate the creative spirit of the region. When our new building is completed in 2016 we’ll bring the best of these experiences back into our new building with a greater understanding of our place in the community.”

“Dialogue with the community has always been important to SFMOMA, and we’re tremendously excited to work with all our museum partners,” says SFMOMA Curator of Painting and Sculpture Janet Bishop, who is leading the museum’s off-site initiative. “Our construction period offers an opportunity to really extend that dialogue and play it out in a variety of new ways. Not only will audiences be able to see and experience the museum in a new light, but we’ll be able to see ourselves in a new light, too, and gain valuable insight from that exchange.”

SFMOMA’s decision to pursue off-site programming during construction evolved from a detailed review of the best options for the museum’s art collection, the audiences it serves, and its vision for the future. Joint programs through partnership further SFMOMA’s mission to make art not only widely accessible, but accessible in continually new and surprising ways.

Bay Area Museum Partnerships

At partner venues, SFMOMA will jointly organize major thematic exhibitions—one approximately each season—that highlight both iconic and lesser-seen works from all areas of the museum’s holdings and provide new contexts for viewing and understanding those artworks. Current museum partners include the Asian Art Museum; Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University; Contemporary Jewish Museum; Museum of the African Diaspora; Oakland Museum of California; and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Exhibitions scheduled from summer 2013 to summer 2014 include:

  • Beyond Belief: 100 Years of the Spiritual in Modern Art (June 28–October 27, 2013)
    On view at the Contemporary Jewish Museum

    Co-organized by SFMOMA and CJM, Beyond Belief explores the connections between spirituality and modern and contemporary art. The exhibition features more than 60 works spanning 1911 to 2011 on loan to the CJM from SFMOMA’s internationally acclaimed collection—ranging from visitor favorites to some that have not been seen by the public for many years—including paintings, sculpture, works on paper, photographs, video, and installation. Exhibition artists represent a wide variety of cultural backgrounds and interests, ranging from such early to mid-twentieth-century innovators as Paul Klee and Mark Rothko to leading postwar and contemporary artists Agnes Martin, Nam June Paik, and Teresita Fernández. Beyond Belief is curated by Karen Tsujimoto, curator; Jeanne Gerrity, curatorial associate; and Daniel Schifrin, writer-in-residence, at the Contemporary Jewish Museum; and Janet Bishop, curator of painting and sculpture; Corey Keller, curator of photography; Caitlin Haskell, assistant curator of painting and sculpture; and Peter Samis, associate curator of interpretation, at SFMOMA.
  • Flesh and Metal: Body and Machine in Early 20th-Century Art (November 13, 2013–March 16, 2014)
    On view at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University

    Art in the first half of the 20th century is often discussed as a tension between the utopian, impersonal world of the machine and the uncontrollable realm of the human psyche.  A closer look at work by some of the era’s European and American artists, such as Berenice Abbott, Constantin Brancusi, Giorgio di Chirico, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Germaine Krull, Fernand Léger, and Man Ray, suggests a synthesizing of these two polarities—flesh and metal, body and machine. This show of over 60 paintings, sculptures, photographs, and illustrated books considers how artists reconciled these apparent opposites, producing a wide range of imagery that responded to the complexity of modern experience. Flesh and Metal is co-curated by Hilarie Faberman, Robert M. and Ruth L. Halperin Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Cantor, and Nancy J. Troy, Victoria and Roger Sant Professor in Art at Stanford, in association with Janet Bishop, curator of painting and sculpture; Caitlin Haskell, assistant curator of painting and sculpture; and Corey Keller, curator of photography, at SFMOMA. Throughout 2013, Troy and Faberman will be leading courses with Stanford students, who will assist with designing and presenting the exhibition.
  • Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa (February 21–June 29, 2014)
    On view at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

    Taking as a starting point SFMOMA’s growing collection of photography from South Africa, Public Intimacy will focus on the ways that artists have explored interpersonal relationships, encounters, and exchange in the everyday social life of that country. The exhibition extends beyond photography to comprise painting, printmaking, sculpture, media arts, architecture and design, and publications from SFMOMA’s collection as well as key loans. Public Intimacy will feature works by approximately 20 artists, including David Goldblatt, William Kentridge, Sabelo Mlangeni, Zanele Muholi, Sello Pesa, and Lindeka Qampi. Reflecting both institutions’ unique approach to programming, the presentation will also include Live Projects—a series of related talks, screenings, performances, new artist commissions, workshops, education activities, and family programs—taking place at YBCA and in public spaces. Public Intimacy is co-curated by Betti-Sue Hertz, director of visual arts, at YBCA; and Dominic Willsdon, Leanne and George Roberts Curator of Education and Public Programs, and Frank Smigiel, associate curator of public programs, at SFMOMA.
  • Gorgeous (June 20–September 14, 2014)
    On view at the Asian Art Museum

    Gorgeous will present key works from SFMOMA and the Asian Art Museum in provocative and stimulating new contexts to chart the boundaries of beauty and examine one of its most extreme forms. The exhibition will encourage viewers not only to marvel at the works on view, but also to engage the question “What is gorgeous?” From luxurious ornamentation to austere simplicity, from kitsch to camp, gorgeousness is an evolving and dynamic concept that has been conceived in many ways and has taken various visual forms. How does the placement of a Mark Rothko painting near a Buddhist mandala or a 2000-year-old Chinese tomb figure near self-portraits sculpted in soap and chocolate by Janine Antoni, bringing into focus new aspects of each work? Through two very different collections with very different histories, Gorgeous will inspire debate and discovery. Highlights include paintings, sculptures, and photographs from SFMOMA’s holdings by Marcel Duchamp, Jeff Koons, Marilyn Minter, Joan Miró, Meret Oppenheim, Trevor Paglen, and Pablo Picasso. From the Asian Art Museum, the exhibition will feature the 1000-year-old Indian sculpture Durga victorious over the buffalo demon; a gilded and jeweled Burmese Buddhist alms bowl; a Korean cloth with complex calculated geometric designs; a decorated Koran from 16th-century Persia; a set of Chobunsai Eishi silk scrolls, Three Types of Beauties in Edo (1770–1829); and Hua Yan’s gold-surfaced ink paintings Summer gatherings in a mountain villa (1682–1756). Gorgeous will be curated by Allison Harding, assistant curator of contemporary art, and Forrest McGill, chief curator and Wattis Curator of South and Southeast Asian Art, at the Asian Art Museum, in association with Janet Bishop, curator of painting and sculpture, and Caitlin Haskell, assistant curator of painting and sculpture, at SFMOMA.

Special Presentation of SFMOMA’s Collection

An extended single-gallery presentation at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco will feature highlights from SFMOMA’s collection:

  • Matisse from SFMOMA (November 9, 2013–September 7, 2014)
    On view at the Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

    This jewel-sized exhibition features 23 paintings, drawings, and bronzes from SFMOMA’s internationally acclaimed collection of work by Henri Matisse, joined by four important paintings and drawings from the collection of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF). Celebrating the Bay Area’s early and long-standing enthusiasm for the French artist, Matisse from SFMOMA traces four decades of the artist’s career, from a Cézanne-inspired still life and an academic nude from the turn of the last century to his richly patterned interiors from the 1920s and 1930s. Of special note are the vibrantly colored pictures from the artist’s fauvist period, from 1905 to 1908, when the artist first rose to prominence as a leader of modern French painting. Matisse from SFMOMA is organized by Janet Bishop, curator of painting and sculpture, SFMOMA, and Melissa Buron, curatorial assistant, FAMSF. 

Outdoor Commissions and Site-Specific Installations

SFMOMA will create temporary interventions into the urban fabric of the city, such as:

  • Mark di Suvero at Crissy Field (May 22, 2013–May 26, 2014)
    A major outdoor exhibition of Mark di Suvero’s iconic works will be on view near the Golden Gate Bridge. Eight large-scale steel sculptures will be installed at Crissy Field, a former airfield and military base that is now one of the most visited national park sites within the Golden Gate National Parks. Curated by SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra, Mark di Suvero at Crissy Field will be the largest display of the artist’s work ever shown on the West Coast, including a recent sculpture that has never before been on public view. The exhibition coincides with di Suvero’s 80th birthday, taking place more than 70 years after he emigrated from Shanghai to San Francisco—a journey that proved to be a lasting inspiration as the scale and color of the Bridge have inspired di Suvero throughout his life. Presented by SFMOMA in partnership with the National Park Service and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, the yearlong exhibition will be free to the public and extend the programs celebrating the Golden Gate Bridge’s 75th anniversary.
  • 2012 SECA Art Award: Zarouhie Abdalian, Josh Faught, Jonn Herschend, David Wilson (September 14–November 17, 2013)
    Continuing SFMOMA's commitment to supporting the local art scene, the next iteration of the museum's biennial award honoring the achievements of exceptional Bay Area artists has invited nominees to submit proposals for their artwork to be presented outside of the traditional museum gallery context—a first in the history of the Art Award program. In December 2012, the museum announced four recipients of the 2012 SECA Art Award: Zarouhie Abdalian, Josh Faught, Jonn Herschend, and David Wilson. Curated by SFMOMA Assistant Curators Jenny Gheith and Tanya Zimbardo, the exhibition of the 2012 awardees will present new commissioned work—including drawing, performance, sound, video, and sculpture—at four sites: the Neptune Society Columbarium of San Francisco; around Frank H. Ogawa Plaza in downtown Oakland; online at SFMOMA’s website,; and outside the museum’s Third Street building (leading to various locations throughout the city). Documentation of the projects will be featured both on the museum's website and in the accompanying award exhibition catalogue.
  • Project Los Altos: SFMOMA in Silicon Valley (November 9, 2013–March 2, 2014)
    SFMOMA brings national and international artists to the Silicon Valley community of Los Altos in this unique multisite exhibition. Occupying indoor and outdoor locations throughout the downtown area, Project Los Altos features newly commissioned artist projects by Spencer Finch, Christian Jankowski, Chris Johanson, Mike Mills, Katerina Šedá, Alec Soth, and Jessica Stockholder that respond to the history and culture of this former agricultural area, the local residents, and the sites themselves. These new works are joined by documentation of performance works by artist Charles Garoian’s students at Los Altos High School from 1969 to 1985, and Jeremy Blake’s opulent Winchester trilogy (2002–4), from the SFMOMA collection, inspired by the eccentric South Bay mansion built by Sarah Winchester. The exhibition will be free for all visitors and is organized in collaboration with the City of Los Altos and lead sponsor Passerelle Investment Company.
  • Doug Aitken’s Empire at multiple venues (fall 2014)
    A multi-location exhibition of Doug Aitken’s Empire (2008–11)—the Los Angeles–based artist’s trilogy of video installations reflecting on migration and myths of the West—will present all three parts of the work together for the first time. Shown simultaneously at different venues, the work comprises Migration, a single-channel work meant to be projected onto billboards or the façade of a building; and Frontier and Black Mirror, designed as multi-channel pavilions with moving image and sound.
  • New Work exhibitions (dates and venues TBD)
    Presentations of the museum’s ongoing New Work series, which showcases recent work by national and international artists, will take place at off-site locations to be announced. Previous New Work exhibitions have featured artists Matthew Barney, Marilyn Minter, Glenn Ligon, Tatsuo Miyajima, Kara Walker, and Andrea Zittel, among many others. 

Traveling Photography Exhibitions around the State

SFMOMA is known internationally as a leader in presenting and collecting photography, and will tour exhibitions of work from its collection to communities throughout California, including Bakersfield, Riverside, Sacramento, and Sonoma. Projects in development include:

  • Photography in Mexico from the Collection of SFMOMA
    Sonoma County Museum, Santa Rosa (September 28, 2013–January 12, 2014)
    Bakersfield Museum of Art (September 11, 2014–January 4, 2015)

    Haggin Museum, Stockton (April 16–June 14, 2015)
    Featuring approximately 100 photographs, this exhibition reveals a distinctively rich and diverse tradition of photography in Mexico. The show begins with works from the medium's first artistic flowering in the wake of the Mexican Revolution (1910–20) and goes on to explore the explosion of the illustrated press at midcentury; the documentary investigations of cultural traditions and urban politics that emerged in the 1970s and 1980s; and more recent considerations of urban life and globalization. Photography in Mexico includes work by Edward Weston, Tina Modotti, Lola Álvarez Bravo, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Manuel Carrillo, Graciela Iturbide, Elsa Medina, Pablo Ortiz Monasterio, and Mariana Yampolsky, among others. 
  • The Provoke Era: Japanese Photography from the Collection of SFMOMA
    Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento (October 12, 2014–February 1, 2015)
    California Museum of Photography, UC Riverside (March 28
    –August 15, 2015)

    SFMOMA has been actively acquiring the work of internationally recognized artists including Masahisa Fukase, Eikoh Hosoe, Daido Moriyama, and Shōmei Tōmatsu since the 1970s, assembling one of the world’s preeminent collections of Japanese photography. The exhibition begins with the avant-garde tradition that emerged in Tokyo in the 1960s and 70s and explores its influence on the diverse photographic practice that continues today. The tumultuous period following World War II proved fertile ground for a generation of Japanese photographers who responded to societal upheaval by creating a new visual language dubbed "Are, Bure, Boke"—rough, blurred, and out of focus. Named for the magazine Provoke, which sought to break the rules of traditional photography, this exhibition traces how Japanese photographers responded to their country's shifting social and political atmosphere.

Education and Public Programs

During the museum’s off-site period, SFMOMA will continue to expand its role as cultural producer and catalyst for creativity through new programs under the direction of Dominic Willsdon, Leanne and George Roberts Curator of Education and Public Programs at SFMOMA.

  • Focus on school partnerships
    In anticipation of serving a greater high school audience in the expanded building, the Education Department will prototype new partnerships with local San Francisco public high schools, working intensively with cross-disciplinary teams of teachers at selected high schools to engage students in the visual art of our time. Additionally, SFMOMA will continue its teacher training programs that will allow Bay Area educators to visit and explore SFMOMA’s off-site exhibitions and installations and develop visual art curriculum in collaboration with museum staff. SFMOMA docents will also lead discussions on modern and contemporary art at off-site program locations as well as classrooms, libraries, and other community centers.
  • Live Projects
    SFMOMA’s bimonthly Live Projects series are intensive immersions in the art and ideas of contemporary artists. Through talks, screenings, performances, new artist commissions, workshops, education activities, family programs, and more, Live Projects explore how the work of selected artists opens new and alternative perspectives on who we are and where and how we live. Each series includes a talk by the featured artist(s) and a host of related programs, all winding a path to locations throughout the Bay Area. Live Projects will launch in the fall, presented alongside the exhibitions Mark di Suvero at Crissy Field (September 2013) and 2012 SECA Art Award (November 2013). The museum’s popular Family Sundays program will be on the go as a part of Live Projects, and SFMOMA Family Programs will also travel to local festivals and street fairs throughout this time.

About SFMOMA’s Expansion

Developed by architectural firm Snøhetta in collaboration with SFMOMA and EHDD of San Francisco, the museum’s expansion project will significantly enhance gallery and education spaces, enabling SFMOMA to better showcase its expanded permanent collection and serve its growing audiences. In November 2011, SFMOMA unveiled the latest design details featuring free-access ground-level galleries and public spaces, and new educational areas throughout the museum. The public can stay up to date on the latest expansion news by visiting the expansion section of the SFMOMA website at