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 47,000 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: June 25, 2019
On view October 26, 2019–February 17, 2020
Floors 4 + 7
SOFT POWER is an exhibition of recent work and new commissions by 20 artists from around the world. Artists gathered here understand themselves as social actors, question their responsibility as citizens, and are aware of their role as public intellectuals and provocateurs. They are part of a generation of artists who explore the potential of art, and the potency of artist as citizen. Neither explicitly political nor purely abstract, works in the exhibition will take various forms, from sculpture, to architectural intervention, to performance. The title comes from the phrase coined by political scientist Joseph Nye in the 1980s that describes how one country persuades other countries to do what it wants without force or coercion. SOFT POWER appropriates this term as a provocation.
Lead support for SOFT POWER is provided by Helen and Charles Schwab. Major support is provided by the Ford Foundation, Diana Nelson and John Atwater, and Katie and Matt Paige. Generous support is provided by Sir Deryck and Lady Va Maughan.
Image: Tanya Lukin Linklater with Liz Lott, The treaty is in the body, 2017; courtesy the artist and Winnipeg Art Gallery; © Tanya Lukin Linklater
On view February 15–June 2020
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) together with the Whitney Museum of American Art will present Dawoud Bey: An American Project, the first full-scale retrospective of Bey’s extraordinary career. Named a MacArthur Fellow in 2017, Bey is recognized as one of the most influential photographers of his generation. Since the beginning of his career, he has used his camera to represent communities and histories that have largely remained underrepresented or even unseen. Bey has worked primarily in portraiture, making tender and direct portrayals of black subjects both on the street and in the studio. This exhibition includes the artist’s earliest bodies of work, such as Harlem, USA, which was exhibited at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1979, as well as more recent photography and video projects that extend his work in portraiture and explore landscapes as sites of memory to evoke African-American history. Bey sees making art not only as an act of personal expression but also of social and political responsibility, emphasizing the necessary work of artists and art institutions to break down obstacles to access, convene communities and open dialogue.
Major support for Dawoud Bey: An American Project is provided by the Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation. Generous support is provided by The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation and Sarah Wigglesworth and Asiff Hirji.
Image: Dawoud Bey, Don Sledge and Moses Austin, from The Birmingham Project, 2012; © Dawoud Bey; photo: courtesy SFMOMA
On view April 11–September 7, 2020
At the age of 38, David Park (1911–1960) abandoned a carload of his abstract expressionist canvases at the city dump and started painting “pictures” — a radical decision that led to the development of Bay Area Figurative Art. Organized by SFMOMA, this exhibition will be the first major museum exhibition of Park’s work in three decades and the first to examine the full arc of his career. Approximately 125 works will be on view, ranging from his tightly controlled paintings from the 1930s to his final works on paper from 1960. The heart of the show will be a rich selection of the 1950s Bay Area Figurative canvases for which he is best known — boldly executed compositions featuring musicians, domestic and vernacular scenes, portraits, boaters and bathers — that reveal an artist deeply connected to human experience at the peak of his powers, reveling in the expressive and sensuous qualities of pure paint.
Major support for David Park: A Retrospective is provided by Janet and Clint Reilly and anonymous donors. Generous support is provided by Jean and James E. Douglas, Jr., Susan and Bill Oberndorf, the Thomas Weisel Family, and Anita and Ronald Wornick. Additional support is provided by the Wyeth Foundation for American Art.
Image: David Park, Two Bathers, 1958; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, purchase through gifts of Mrs. Wellington S. Henderson, Helen Crocker Russell, and the Crocker Family, by exchange, and the Mary Heath Keesling Fund; © Estate of David Park; photo: John Wilson White
On view July 20, 2019–January 20, 2020
Fifty years after the first footsteps on the moon, our ongoing journey into space continues to capture worldwide attention and global resources. Organized by SFMOMA’s Architecture and Design department, Far Out: Suits, Habs, and Labs for Outer Space will underscore the importance of both applied and theoretical design in forwarding new models for life beyond earth. California is uniquely poised to host an exhibition on this topic, with an established history of astronautic innovation and invested research on space exploration at two NASA centers — Ames and the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) — as well as Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Real and conceptual designs for space suits, habitats and laboratories will be on view, alongside a selection of films and visual art, including designs from Raymond Loewy, Rick Guidice, Neri Oxman and Tom Sachs, among others. Culled from many different collections, Far Out celebrates design in taking us far out to the final frontier.
Image: Rick Guidice, Toroidal Colonies, cutaway view exposing the interior; courtesy NASA Ames Research Center History Archives
On view July 20–December 1, 2019
There’s no success like failure. Artists know that better than everyone else. Don’t! Photography and the Art of Mistakes will explore the way in which certain photographic techniques considered errors by one generation of photographers became interesting aesthetic proposals by the next generation. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, proscriptive texts written by self-proclaimed photography experts proliferated in amateur manuals and periodicals. The next generation saw the rise of modernist photography, much of which pushed back against established rules and strictures. By pairing modernist photographs by artists such as Florence Henri, Lisette Model and Man Ray with these documents, this exhibition will examine the changing definitions of “good” and “bad” photography, while also considering how tastes evolved during this rich period in the history of medium. The show will conclude with a section of contemporary work by Sara Cwynar, John Gossage and Andy Mattern, which responds to the idea of failure and the photographic manual, underscoring the persistent nature of these concerns in photography.
Left: Charles M. Taylor, Jr., Why My Photographs Are Bad. Philadelphia, PA: G.W. Jacobs & Co., 1902.
Right: Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Untitled, ca. 1963; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, gift of Dan Holland; © The Estate of Ralph Eugene Meatyard
On view August 31, 2019–January 5, 2020
In 1853, at the age of 21, John Beasley Greene (1832–56) set out for Egypt armed with a camera and a passion for archaeology. Over the course of an exceptionally brief career, he created a body of photographs in North Africa that was admired by his peers and which continues to capture the attention of contemporary audiences. Not only did he provide detailed records of Egyptian hieroglyphics and Algerian antiquities that helped advance the field, but his pictures also offer the sensitive impressions of a thoughtful visitor in an unfamiliar land. Greene was acutely attuned to the aesthetic possibilities of photography, and his compositions display a masterful grasp of the relationship between negative and positive space. He died at 24, leaving behind few records but hundreds of pictures. This exhibition, his first museum survey show, will present Greene’s visual record of the archaeological and colonial concerns of mid-19th-century France and a singular vision for the photographic description of landscape.
In conjunction with Signs and Wonders: The Photographs of John Beasley Greene, SFMOMA will present Hannah Collins: I Will Make Up a Song, a video and photography installation that explores the work of Egyptian Modernist architect Hassan Fathy. Fascinated by issues of housing, poverty and environmental sustainability, Collins (b. 1956) considers Fathy’s mid-20th-century utopian experiments in sustainable architecture and rural community building at New Gourna and New Baris in Egypt, which raised important questions that seem ever more pertinent today.
Generous support for Signs and Wonders: The Photographs of John Beasley Greene is provided by Wes and Kate Mitchell. Additional support is provided by Sakurako and William Fisher and Gary B. Sokol.
Image: John Beasley Greene, Giza. Pyramid of Cheops, or Khufu, 1853–54; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
On view October 2019–February 2020
Richard Mosse’s three-screen digital projection Incoming (2017) charts the current refugee crisis in Europe. Epic in scope and by turns lyrical and vivid, harrowing and violent, the video installation tracks two major flows of migrants from war-torn regions of Africa and the Middle East to emergency shelters in France and Germany. Utilizing military-grade camera technology, the otherworldly footage evokes the sense that viewers are watching the action covertly as if through night-vision goggles. This presentation will be the West Coast premiere of the 52-minute immersive work, and will also be accompanied by a selection of related photographs of refugee camps.
Image: Richard Mosse, Incoming, 2017 (installation view); Kramlich Collection; NGV Triennial, National Gallery of Victoria, Southbank, Australia; © Richard Mosse; photo: courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
On view November 16, 2019–April 12, 2020
The SECA Art Award, established in 1967 by SFMOMA’s Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art, has recognized more than 70 Bay Area artists with an exhibition and accompanying publication. The 2019 SECA Art Award exhibition will feature three Bay Area artists, each with a dedicated gallery: Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, Sahar Khoury and Marlon Mullen. Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle’s interdisciplinary practice explores “the historical present,” her term for the persistent residue of history in contemporary life. Sahar Khoury transforms discarded materials into sculptures animated by freewheeling experimentation and personal narrative. Marlon Mullen takes magazine covers as his primary source imagery, translating them into vividly painted abstractions.
illy is the Presenting Sponsor of the 2019 SECA Art Award: Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, Sahar Khoury, Marlon Mullen. Generous support is provided by SECA (Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art), an SFMOMA art experience group.
Image: Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, The Uprising, 2016; courtesy the artist; © Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle
On view April 11–September 7, 2020
Organized to accompany David Park: A Retrospective, this exhibition will examine the weekly figure drawing sessions initiated by Park, Elmer Bischoff and Richard Diebenkorn in 1953. These artists’ gatherings, which expanded during the decade to include additional friends and colleagues, were held in each other’s Bay Area studios with hired models, both male and female. Together, the artists focused on mastering the human form by repeatedly drawing models in various poses, and experimenting with both traditional and alternative materials. The show will feature 32 drawings and two sketchbooks that capture the collegial and dynamic nature of these sessions.
On view July 6–December 1, 2019
Made over the course of some 30 years, the photographs in this exhibition depict the many faces of April Dawn Alison (1941–2008), the female persona of an Oakland, California–based photographer who lived in the world as a man. Upon her death, Alison left an archive of over 9,000 Polaroid photographs, the vast majority of which are self-portraits. This previously unseen body of work begins in the late 1960s or early 70s with tentative explorations in black-and-white photographs, and evolves in the 1980s into an exuberant, wildly colorful and obsessive practice inspired by representations of women in classical Hollywood cinema, pornography and advertising. An extraordinary long-term exploration of a private self, the Alison archive contains photographs that are beautiful, funny, enigmatic and heartbreakingly sad, sometimes all at the same time.
Image: April Dawn Alison, Untitled, n.d.; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, gift of Andrew Masullo
On view July 20–October 27, 2019
Working in various mediums, scales and modes, Erin Shirreff explores our relationship to objects and images, and between two- and three-dimensional space. In this exhibition, her first solo museum presentation on the West Coast, Shirreff will show a selection of recent sculptures and photographic works. Forms based on JPEGs are rendered in foamboard and bronze, and offset reproductions are enlarged and given a sculptural dimension of their own. Together, the works examine the slippage between the experience of an object in real space and its photographic representation, where scale, weight and physical presence are distorted.
Generous support for New Work: Erin Shirreff is provided by Alka and Ravin Agrawal, SFMOMA’s Contemporaries, Adriane Iann and Christian Stolz, and Robin Wright and Ian Reeves.
Image: Erin Shirreff, Bronze (Slivka, Burckhardt, Busch, Laocoön), 2018; courtesy of the artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York; © Erin Shirreff