Nothing Stable Under Heaven

March 3–September 16, 2018

Floor 7


Nothing Stable under Heaven reflects on the contested past, the turbulent present, and the unpredictable future, examining how individual and collective voices can be heard in an uncertain world. The title is taken from an essay by James Baldwin, in which he claims the role of the artist in society is to reveal its inherent instability. Featuring contemporary work from the museum’s collection by artists such as Andrea Bowers, Hans Haacke, Emily Jacir, Arthur Jafa, and Glenn Ligon, this exhibition explores the ways that these artists inform our understanding of urgent social, ecological, and civic issues—including security and surveillance, evolving modes of communication, and political resistance.

Exhibition Preview

Photography of a burning hill

High contract image of demonstrators with fists in the air

A black and white portrait of a woman with white hair holding a protest sign reading "Troops

A house with the words " Destroy this memory" spray-painted on the side

Trevor Paglen

A detail of scrunched up floral prints

Rinko Kawauchi, Untitled, from the series Ametsuchi, 2012; collection SFMOMA, Foto Forum purchase; © Rinko Kawauchi

Glenn Ligon, We’re Black and Strong (I), 1996; collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase © Glenn Ligon

Judith Joy Ross, Susan Ravitz, Protesting the U.S. War in Iraq, Easton, Pennsylvania, from the series Protest the War, 2006; collection SFMOMA, purchase through a gift of Helen and Richard Spalding; © Judith Joy Ross

Richard Misrach, Untitled [New Orleans and the Gulf Coast], 2005; printed 2010; collection SFMOMA, gift of the artist and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco; © Richard Misrach

Trevor Paglen, Autonomy Cube, 2014; collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase; © Trevor Paglen; photo: N. Miguletz, courtesy the artist and Altman Siegel, San Francisco, Metro Pictures, New York

Kevin Beasley, Untitled (Monday), 2016; collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase; © Kevin Beasley; photo: courtesy the artist and Casey Kaplan Gallery, New York

Watch Interviews with the Artists Featured in Nothing Stable Under Heaven

Nothing Stable under Heaven is a collaboration between the Architecture + Design, Education + Public Practice, Media Arts, Painting + Sculpture, and Photography Departments.

Major support for Nothing Stable Under Heaven is provided by Helen and Charles Schwab.

Header image: Rinko Kawauchi, Untitled, from the series Ametsuchi, 2012; collection SFMOMA, Foto Forum purchase; © Rinko Kawauchi