The Art of Participation

1950 to Now

Jochen Gerz, The Gift, 2000/2008; (photos from San Francisco Museum of Modern Art production); photo: courtesy Gerz Studio © 2008 Jochen Gerz and Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, Germany

The Gift

SFMOMA and German-born conceptual artist Jochen Gerz invited the public to take part in Gerz's photography project, The Gift, during the first half of the 2008 - 09 exhibition The Art of Participation: 1950 to Now. Museum visitors had the opportunity to pose for portraits in a working photo studio in the galleries. During the run of the exhibition, the studio printed and framed the portraits, which were displayed in rotation on a gallery wall at SFMOMA.

To extend the invitation of The Gift to the public and to highlight the participants, SFMOMA collaborated with the San Francisco Examiner to present the portraits in print and online. Gerz returned to the museum for a special closing reception in February 2009 to give each of the project's participants a portrait of another person chosen at random, asking recipients to display the photographs in their homes or offices. Participants had the option of making their photo documentation of these individual exhibitions available online.

For the artist, the gift invoked in the work's title is the act of exchange itself: "It is in art as in life: what you give is what you receive." Through this project, the museum extends its walls, and the exhibition's visitors were able to participate in the production and distribution of an artwork.

In 2009 SFMOMA acquired The Gift, San Francisco (2008/2009), comprising the black-and-white portraits of museum visitors taken as part of the project. The 1858 digital images can be printed for future display; a selection of 100 portraits will be on view on the third-floor landing wall at SFMOMA from October 30, 2010, through January 30, 2011.


The Art of Participation: 1950 to Now is organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition is generously funded by The James Irvine Foundation and SFMOMA's Collectors Forum. Additional support is provided by Goethe-Institut San Francisco. Media support is provided by The Examiner and SFExaminer.com.

The James Irvine Foundation