Advance Exhibition Schedule

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is dedicated to making the art for our time a vital and meaningful part of public life. Founded in 1935 as the first West Coast museum devoted to modern and contemporary art, a thoroughly transformed SFMOMA, with triple the gallery space, an enhanced education center and new free ground-floor public galleries, opened to the public on May 14, 2016.

In addition to presentations drawn from its outstanding collection of over 34,000 artworks, as well as the renowned Doris and Donald Fisher Collection and the Pritzker Center for Photography, SFMOMA presents the following special and temporary exhibitions.


Updated: January 10, 2018

Special Exhibitions


René Magritte: The Fifth Season

On view May 19–October 28, 2018
Floor 4

René Magritte was one of the most intriguing painters associated with Surrealism, but he did not fully find his voice until after breaking ties with the movement in 1943. This exhibition is the first to look exclusively at Magritte’s late career (1940s–1960s), a period of remarkable artistic transformation and revitalization. Featuring more than 60 artworks in nine immersive, thematic galleries, René Magritte: The Fifth Season explores how Magritte balanced irony and conviction, philosophy and fantasy, to illuminate the gaps between what we see and what we know. Together, the works reveal Magritte as an artist acutely attuned to the paradoxes at work within reality, and an enduring champion of the role of mystery in life and art.

Lead support for Rene Magritte: The Fifth Season is provided by Carolyn and Preston Butcher. Major support is provided by The Bernard Osher Foundation and Pat Wilson. Generous support is provided by Jean and James E. Douglas, Jr. and Melinda and Kevin P.B. Johnson. Additional support is provided by the Robert Lehman Foundation.

Image: René Magritte, Les valeurs personnelles (Personal Values), 1952; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, purchase through a gift of Phyllis C. Wattis; © Charly Herscovici, Brussels / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; photo: Katherine Du Tiel


Vija Celmins: To Fix the Image in Memory

On view December 2018–March 2019
Floor 4

This exhibition will highlight Vija Celmins’ “re-descriptions” of the physical world, which are created through an intensive and deliberative artistic process. For more than five decades she has been creating subtle, exquisitely detailed renderings of natural imagery — including oceans, desert floors, galaxies and night skies — and surveying how we perceive these vast visual expanses. Organized by medium and motif, Vija Celmins: To Fix the Image in Memory will feature approximately 140 works including 60 paintings, 70 drawings in graphite and charcoal and 10 sculptures, as well as new work created for the exhibition. SFMOMA will present the global debut of this retrospective, the first in North America in more than 25 years.

Image: Vija Celmins, Untitled (Ocean), 1977; graphite on acrylic ground on paper; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, bequest of Alfred M. Esberg; © Vija Celmins; photo: Don Ross


Temporary Exhibitions


Designed in California

On view January 27–May 27, 2018
Floor 6

Exploring the shifting landscape of design in California since the digital revolution, this exhibition focuses on designs that are human-centered, socially conscious and driven by new technological capacity. Retreating from the commercialism of Modernism’s “good design for all,” California designers in the 1960s and 70s sought to design with more political, social and environmental awareness, as seen in the multimedia presentations of Ray and Charles Eames and AntFarm, and in the pages of the Whole Earth Catalog. A shared desire to empower the individual led to designs for “dropping out,” such as North Face’s tents and Chouinard’s climbing equipment, as well as the creation of new tools for connected living — from the first Apple desktop computer to now ubiquitous mobile devices.

Generous support for Designed in California is provided by the Arnold A. Grossman Revocable Trust, the Elaine McKeon Endowed Exhibition Fund, The North Face, and Diane and Howard Zack. Research for the installation was supported in part through the SFMOMA Artist Initiative, generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Image: Charles and Ray Eames, Eames Office conference room, 1944–89; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Architecture and Design Forum Fund and Accessions Committee Fund purchase; photo: Tom Bonner


Sublime Seas: John Akomfrah and J.M.W. Turner

On view March 3–September 16, 2018
Floor 7

This exhibition is the U.S. premiere of artist John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea (2015), a three-channel video installation comprised of fictional narrative, natural history documentary and film essay. This cinematic work, which debuted in 2015 at the Venice Biennale, presents a voyage of discovery, an exploration of water and the unconscious, and poignant reflections on mortality. Vertigo Sea takes the viewer on an immersive aural and visual odyssey, encompassing the greed and cruelty of the whaling industry, the transatlantic slave trade and the current refugee crisis. Akomfrah’s intricately woven triptych positions this crisis in a longer historic perspective of race and migration.

Vertigo Sea will be paired with an unprecedented presentation of J.M.W. Turner’s oil painting The Deluge, first exhibited in 1805. Turner’s dramatic depiction of the Biblical flood was particularly selected by John Akomfrah for this exhibition, and the painting will be on loan from Tate, London.

Image: John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea, 2015; three channel HD color video installation, 7.1 sound 48 minutes 30 seconds; © Smoking Dogs Films; courtesy Lisson Gallery


Nothing Stable under Heaven

On view March 3–September 16, 2018
Floor 7

Nothing Stable under Heaven reflects on our contested past, turbulent present and unpredictable future, examining how individual and collective voices can be heard in an uncertain world. A collaboration across five curatorial departments — Architecture and Design, Education and Public Practice, Media Arts, Painting and Sculpture, and Photography — this exhibition of contemporary artworks from SFMOMA’s collection explores the ways that artists inform our understanding of urgent social, ecological and civic issues, including security and surveillance, evolving modes of communication and political resistance.

Among the works presented are Hans Haacke’s News (1969/2008), a live newsfeed unspooling on rolls of printer paper; Trevor Paglen’s Autonomy Cube (2014), a sculpture with Wi-Fi access to a network that can anonymize data; and An Te Liu’s Cloud (2008), a system of 136 air purifiers, sterilizers, humidifiers, air cleaners and related machines running continuously. The exhibition features work in diverse media by 25 artists, including Andrea Bowers, Emily Jacir, Rinko Kawauchi and Glenn Ligon.

Image: Glenn Ligon, We’re Black and Strong (I), 1996; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Accessions Committee Fund purchase; © Glenn Ligon; photo: Ian Reeves


The Train: RFKs Last Journey

On view March 17–June 10, 2018
Floor 3

On June 8, 1968, three days after the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, his body was carried by a funeral train from New York City to Washington, D.C., for burial at Arlington Cemetery. The Train looks at this historical event through three distinct works. The first is a group of color photographs by commissioned photographer Paul Fusco. Taken from the funeral train, the images capture mourners who lined the railway tracks to pay their final respects. Looking from the opposite perspective, the second work features photographs and home movies by the spectators themselves, collected by Dutch artist Rein Jelle Terpstra in his project The People’s View (2014–18). The third, a work by French artist Philippe Parreno, is a 70mm film reenactment of the funeral train’s journey, inspired by Fusco’s original photographs. Bringing historical and contemporary works together in dialogue, this powerful, multidisciplinary exhibition sheds new light on this pivotal moment in American history.

Generous support for The Train: RFK’s Last Journey is provided by Nion T. McEvoy and Wes and Kate Mitchell. Additional support provided by Lynn Kirshbaum and Kathleen and Robert Matschullat.

Image: Paul Fusco, Untitled, from the series RFK Funeral Train, 1968, printed 2008; © Magnum Photos, courtesy Danziger Gallery


Selves and Others: Gifts to the Collection from Carla Emil and Rich Silverstein

On view March 24–September 23, 2018
Floor 3

The most compelling photographic portraits reveal more than simply a sitter’s physical appearance — they hint at an individual’s character, suggest a psychological state or perhaps even offer a glimpse of the sitter’s soul. Drawn from the many generous gifts Carla Emil and Rich Silverstein have donated to SFMOMA’s collection since the late 1990s, this exhibition features portraits of the self; of personas or avatars; of family members, lovers and friends; and of strangers. Made from the 19th century to the present and organized thematically, the works in the exhibition were created by artists including Julia Margaret Cameron, Rineke Dijkstra, Man Ray, Cindy Sherman and Gillian Wearing, among many others.

Image: Cindy Sherman, Untitled #399, 2000; chromogenic print; fractional and promised gift of Carla Emil and Rich Silverstein to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; © Cindy Sherman, courtesy of the Artist and Metro Pictures


Susan Meiselas: Mediations

On view July 21–October 21, 2018
Floor 3

From war and human rights to cultural identity and domestic violence, Susan Meiselas’s work covers a wide range of subjects and countries. This retrospective brings together projects from the beginning of her career in the 1970s to the present day, including her iconic portraits of carnival strippers, vivid color images of the conflicts in Central America in the 1980s and an ongoing investigation into the history and aftermath of the Kurdish genocide. A member of Magnum Photos since 1976, Meiselas creates work that raises provocative questions about documentary practice and the relationship between photographer and subject. The exhibition highlights her unique working method, combining photography, video, sound and installation to explore different scales of time and conflict, ranging from the personal to the geopolitical. Susan Meiselas: Mediations is organized by the Jeu de Paume (Paris) and the Fundació Antoni Tàpies (Barcelona), and SFMOMA is the exclusive U.S. venue for this exhibition.

Image: Susan Meiselas, Traditional Indian dance mask from the town of Monimbo, used by the rebels during the fight against Somoza to conceal identity. Nicaragua, 1978; courtesy Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos


Donald Judd / Specific Furniture

On view July–November 2018
Floor 6

This exhibition examines Donald Judd’s furniture design as its own practice, independent from his artworks and motivated by entirely different criteria. While formally resonant with Judd’s sculpture, the furniture work — distilled pieces originating from an idealized utilitarian form — emerged out of a desire for functional specificity, developed pragmatically in response to what Judd saw as an absence of good, available and affordable furniture. Beyond his roles as artist, designer and critic, Judd was also a passionate collector inspired by the iconic furniture designs of Alvar Alto, Gerrit Rietveld, Mies Van Der Rohe and Rudolf Schindler, among others. This presentation brings together Judd’s furniture with examples by others that he revered and owned himself, as well as newly fabricated Judd pieces that visitors may experience as they were intended.

Image: Donald Judd, Copper armchair, 1984; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, gift of Byron R. Meyer; photo: Katherine Du Tiel


Single-Gallery Presentations


Jim Campbell: Tilted Plane

On view March 3–September 16, 2018
Floor 7

This is the first SFMOMA presentation of Jim Campbell’s mesmerizing light installation Tilted Plane (2011), which explores the threshold of perception. The immersive work features a suspended grid of hundreds of incandescent bulbs whose filaments have been replaced by custom LEDs. Each light represents a “pixel” of information from an ultra-low-resolution moving image of birds in flight. Visitors are invited to step inside the room-sized artwork to experience the angled image plane from different perspectives and see how the flickering patterns of light may be discerned as shadowy forms in motion.

Generous support for Jim Campbell: Tilted Plane is provided by Lionel F. Conacher and Joan T. Dea.

Image: Jim Campbell, Tilted Plane, 2011; promised gift of the artist and Hosfelt Gallery; © Jim Campbell; photo: Ruth Clark, courtesy the artist and Hosfelt Gallery


Carolyn Drake: Wild Pigeon

On view March 17–September 23, 2018
Floor 3

Between 2007 and 2013, American photographer Carolyn Drake made several visits to Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwest China, where she engaged in a collaborative work with the people she met, asking them to draw on and alter her photographs. In 2017, SFMOMA acquired the entire set of 32 unique photo-collages made for the Wild Pigeon project. This series will be presented in a newly dedicated space for recent contemporary photography acquisitions in the Pritzker Center for Photography.

Image: Carolyn Drake, Wild Pigeon, 2007–13; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Accessions Committee Fund purchase; © Carolyn Drake


New Work: LANZA Atelier

On view March 31–July 29, 2018
Floor 4

The latest installment of SFMOMA’s New Work series features the architecture and furniture design of LANZA Atelier. Based in Mexico City, LANZA is an architecture studio founded in 2015 by Isabel Abascal and Alessandro Arienzo, and this marks their first solo museum exhibition in the U.S. The centerpiece of the exhibition is Steps Table (2017), a 25-foot-long table comprised of 13 tiered sections paired with 26 chairs. Steps Table grows in height incrementally from one section to the next. Viewed from the lower end, the table seems to float gradually upwards, while from the upper end the structure appears to lower toward the ground. The New Work series is an integral part of SFMOMA’s commitment to highlighting work by living artists.

Generous support for New Work: LANZA Atelier is provided by Alka and Ravin Agrawal, SFMOMA’s Contemporaries, Adriane Iann and Christian Stolz, Robin Wright and Ian Reeves, and Helen and Charles Schwab.

Image: LANZA Atelier, Steps Table, 2017 (installation view, Labor Gallery, Mexico City); photo: Camila Cossio