Photo: Don Ross

The Artist Initiative

The Artist Initiative is a series of collaborative, interdisciplinary research projects bringing together curators, conservators, art historians, and artists to pilot new approaches to contemporary art conservation, interpretation, and display. Funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Artist Initiative features research engagements with individual artists, including Ellsworth Kelly, Vija Celmins, and Julia Scher, as well as thematic studies of photography from the 1970s and 1980s and Bay Area high-tech design. Interdisciplinary teams devoted to each engagement work closely with artists and scholars to explore complex issues surrounding the preservation and display of key works in our collection. Research undertaken with Ellsworth Kelly and Julia Scher, for example, supported new installations of their work in 2016.

In the newly expanded museum, the Artist Initiative benefits from new hybrid workspaces, including the Collections Workroom, a state-of-the-art facility that supports collaborations between visiting artists, conservators, and curators, and the Media Suites, a center for the study of media artworks and their installation. At the Collection Center, a seventy-five-thousand-square-foot facility in South San Francisco, we currently host researchers and educational workshops, provide access to artworks not currently on view in the galleries, and conduct interviews with artists in the Mock-Up Gallery, a working model of a gallery in the new museum building.

The Artist Initiative aims to facilitate a more integrated approach to museum conservation and collections care. We will communicate our findings through public symposia featuring leading museum professionals and artists, and we look forward to sharing our research across SFMOMA’s print and digital publishing platforms.

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

The Artist Initiative: Vija Celmins
Through a series of study days and innovative workshops, the Artist Initiative team developed new display and interpretation strategies for the artwork of Vija Celmins.

The Artist Initiative: Ellsworth Kelly
The Artist Initiative team worked closely with Ellsworth Kelly and his studio to design and install four large galleries devoted exclusively to the artist’s work.

The Artist Initiative: Julia Scher
With the support of Artist Initiative team members, Julia Scher developed a new iteration of her artwork Predictive Engineering 3 (1993present).

The Artist Initiative: Stewardship of Color Photography
In dialogue with photographers from the museum's collection and an international cohort of colleagues, the Artist Initiative team explored the practice of reprinting color photographs.

The Artist Initiative: Bay Area High-Tech Design
The Artist Initiative team collaborated with designers to research conservation and display strategies for design objects in the museum’s collection, and explored visitor’s appetites to interact with such objects.

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