Media Arts

Media art can make the viewer an active participant. It can upend the roles of artist and spectator.

Rudolf Frieling
curator of Media Arts

Media plays a major role in everyday life, from cinema and television to surveillance and the Internet. Our Media Arts collection reflects how artists have used various technologies in their work since the 1960s. The collection encompasses a diverse range of time-based media artworks, including video, film, slide, sound, computer-based, and online projects as well as live performances.

From immersive installations to participation-based pieces, the works in the Media Arts collection become activated when exhibited. We not only commission new work for our dedicated galleries, but also explore how to create engaging experiences in public spaces throughout the museum.

Reflecting the Bay Area’s tradition of technological innovation and forward thinking, SFMOMA is a leader in the presentation, collection, and preservation of time-based media works. Our Department of Media Arts, established in 1987, was among the first of its kind in the United States.

Candice Breitz, Working Class Hero (A Portrait of John Lennon) (detail), 2006; Collection SFMOMA, Purchase through a gift of Pam Kramlich, Elaine McKeon, the K. Hart Smith Trust, and the Accessions Committee Fund

Collection Highlights

The Artist Initiative: Julia Scher

The Artist Initiative with Julia Scher is one of a series of five collaborative, interdisciplinary research projects that bring together curators, conservators, art historians, and artists to pilot new approaches to contemporary art conservation, interpretation, and display.

The Artist Initiative is generously funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Media in Transition

Our friends at the Tate Modern recently hosted "Media in Transition," a conference addressing the ways in which media arts are affected by changes in technology over time. Rudolf Frieling, curator of Media Arts, Robin Clark, director of the Artist Initiative, and Martina Haidvogl, associate media conservator, spoke with Julia Scher about their collective work on Scher's artwork Predictive Engineering.

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Online Screening: Takeshi Murata's Monster Movie

As part of The Campaign for Art: Contemporary, SFMOMA presents an online screening of Takeshi Murata’s Monster Movie (2005) through October 30, 2016. Curator of Media Arts Rudolf Frieling describes Murata’s work as “a nightmare of viral editing in which all material becomes an endless liquefied abstraction of information.”

Explore Nam June Paik’s Notebooks

In conjunction with the exhibition Nam June Paik: In Character, SFMOMA has made available here three notebooks from the SFMOMA collection that Paik used in 1980, 1987, and 1996. Offering intimate access to the process of this renowned and prolific artist, the newly digitized notebooks foreground Paik's wide-ranging experimentation with drawing, a medium in which he developed a distinctive and playful pictorial vocabulary. His works on paper incorporate Chinese, Japanese, and Korean characters as well as symbols of his own devising, including hieroglyphs of frequent subjects such as televisions, birds, and Buddhas.