Photo: © Henrik Kam

Painting + Sculpture

Painters and sculptors open our eyes to new ways of imagining what we couldn’t have imagined before.

Gary Garrels
Elise S. Haas Senior Curator of
Painting and Sculpture


A cornerstone of SFMOMA’s identity since we first opened in 1935, the department of Painting and Sculpture consistently engages with the art and artists of our time. Whether by supporting artists at early stages of their careers, as founding director Grace McCann Morley did when she presented the first solo museum exhibitions for Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Arshile Gorky, or by organizing major retrospectives and thematic exhibitions, we are committed to fostering new ideas and approaches to modern and contemporary art.

Our collection features art created between 1900 and the present, and highlights the work of numerous individual artists in depth. Purposefully wide-ranging in scope, areas of concentration include Fauvism, Cubism, and Surrealism in France; Modernism in the United States and Latin America; American Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism and Pop art; postwar German art; and contemporary art from around the globe. As the first museum on the West Coast dedicated to modern and contemporary art, a large part of our collection focuses on artists from California, and particularly the Bay Area.

Numbering more than eight thousand works, our holdings include paintings, sculptures, and works on paper, yet often expand beyond these categories to follow artists and their interests.


Collection Highlights


Recent Acquisitions

Lutz Bacher
Black Beauty, 2012–13

Black Beauty consists of a constellation of images and found objects that hold personal and philosophical significance for the artist, including sparkling black sand, a shattered mirror, a robot, audio from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and a photograph of her late husband. This meditation on the passage of time provokes a deeply cosmological, fractured view of the intimate and the expansive, the minute and the infinite.

Jessica Jackson Hutchins
Couch For a Long Time, 2009

To create this sculpture, Hutchins repurposed a couch from her childhood living room and covered it with New York Times articles about Barack Obama, written one year into his first term as President. With lumpy, flesh-colored ceramics that allude to the bodies that once sat on the upholstered cushions and a title connecting the temporal nature of news with the optimistic pride many Americans felt at the time, the artist captures how global events pervade and shape our daily realities.



New Work

Since 1987, SFMOMA's New Work exhibition series has provided a platform for experimentation: a space for artists to develop or premiere a body of work or present existing work in a new context.



The Artist Initiative with Ellsworth Kelly

The Artist Initiative with Ellsworth Kelly 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.


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