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: August 10, 2018

Special Exhibitions

Vija Celmins: To Fix the Image in Memory

On view December 15, 2018–March 31, 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 nearly 150 works including paintings, drawings in graphite and charcoal and 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.

Major support for Vija Celmins: To Fix the Image in Memory is provided by the Mimi and Peter Haas Fund. Generous support is provided by Gay-Lynn and Robert Blanding, Janine and J. Tomilson Hill III, Marguerite Steed Hoffman, and Komal Shah and Guarav Garg. Research for the exhibition and catalogue was supported in part by SFMOMA’s Artist Initiative, which is generously funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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

Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World

On view November 10, 2018–February 24, 2019
Floor 7

Bracketed by the conflicts associated with Tiananmen Square in 1989 and the celebratory moment of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, this survey of Chinese contemporary art looks at the bold movements that anticipated, chronicled and agitated for the sweeping social transformation that brought China to the center of the global conversation. With a concentration on the conceptualist, performative and political art practices of two generations of artists, this exhibition examines how Chinese artists have been both critical observers and agents of China’s emergence as a global presence and places their experiments firmly in the global art-historical context.

Art and China After 1989: Theater of the World is organized by The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York. Major support for SFMOMA’s presentation of Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World is provided by Susy and Jack Wadsworth. Generous support is provided by Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang. Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World is made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. This exhibition is organized by Alexandra Munroe, Samsung Senior Curator, Asian Art, and Senior Advisor, Global Arts, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and guest co-curators Philip Tinari, Director, UCCA, Beijing; and Hou Hanru, Artistic Director, MAXXI, National Museum of 21st Century Arts, Rome.

Image: Cao Fei, RMB City: A Second Life City Planning by China Tracy (aka: Cao Fei), 2007; color video, with sound, 6 min. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; © Cao Fei

Temporary Exhibitions

Wayne Thiebaud

Artist’s Choice: September 29, 2018–March 10, 2019
Paintings and Drawings: September 29, 2018–April 28, 2019
Floor 2

In two side-by-side exhibitions, Northern California–based artist Wayne Thiebaud’s own work is featured alongside paintings by others that he personally selected from SFMOMA’s collection.

Thiebaud (b. 1920) first visited SFMOMA in 1942, when he was just 22 years old, and has had a close relationship with the museum ever since. For Wayne Thiebaud: Artist’s Choice, he delved deep into the museum’s storage vault. His choices include both old friends and new discoveries by European Modernists Henri Matisse and Joan Miró, American painters George Ault and Georgia O’Keeffe, California peers Richard Diebenkorn and John McLaughlin, and more recent canvases by Katherine Porter and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.

Drawn from SFMOMA’s collection, the selection of works in Wayne Thiebaud: Paintings and Drawings spans 50 years of the artist’s career, from his classic still life Confections (1962) to his grand landscape Canyon Mountains (2011–12). Get a firsthand look at the creative process behind Thiebaud’s lushly painted, richly hued works, from beginning sketch to finished painting.

Image: Artist Wayne Thiebaud at SFMOMA’s Collections Center, 2018; photo: Katherine Du Tiel

Louis Stettner: Traveling Light

On view October 27, 2018–May 27, 2019
Floor 3

Over the course of nearly eight decades, Louis Stettner defined a singular poetic vision in photography, honing a style influenced by both American street photography and French humanism. Stettner began working in the 1930s, becoming a member of the Photo League and befriending Lisette Model, Paul Strand and Weegee. After serving in the U.S. Army as a combat photographer, he moved to Paris in 1947, where he studied at the Institut des Hautes Études Cinématographiques and met the influential street photographer Brassaï. The following decades were the most important in his career, as he traveled back and forth between Paris and New York and found inspiration in that geographical duality. On the occasion of a major acquisition and donation from the artist’s estate, this thematic retrospective presents iconic prints from the entirety of Stettner’s career.

Generous support for Louis Stettner: Traveling Light is provided by Rusty O’Kelley and John Haskins and Champagne Louis Roederer. Additional support is provided by Sarah Wigglesworth and Asiff Hirji.

Image: Louis Stettner, Brooklyn Promenade, Brooklyn, 1954; courtesy Janet Stettner; © Estate of Louis Stettner. All rights reserved.


On view November 17, 2018–February 18, 2019
Floor 3

Best known for his provocative and enigmatic images of Parisian life and nightlife between the two world wars, Brassaï has become one of the most prominent figures of 20th-century photography. This thematic survey of his career focuses on his celebrated depictions of 1930s Paris, where he photographed lovers, prostitutes, workers and gatherings in cafés, bars and dance halls. It also includes penetrating portraits of his artist friends — such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Henri Matisse — among other members of the city’s avant-garde. Brassaï brings together outstanding prints of his best work from the Estate Brassaï Succession in Paris, as well as from leading museum collections in the U.S. and France.

Brassaï is organized by Fundación MAPFRE in collaboration with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Major support for Brassaï is provided by The Bernard Osher Foundation.

Image: Brassaï, Billiard Player, boulevard Rochechouart, 1932–33; Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris; © Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris

The Sea Ranch: Architecture, Environment, and Idealism

On view December 22, 2018–April 28, 2019
Floor 6

Distinctive architecture, uninhibited ocean views, bold supergraphics, shared open space and meditative tranquility — these were the beginnings of The Sea Ranch, a beacon of Modernism on the Northern California coast. Designed by a small group of Bay Area architects and designers in the early 1960s, the development was envisioned as a progressive, inclusive community, guided by the idealistic principles of good design, economy of space and harmony with the natural environment. This exhibition brings together original sketches and drawings from the project's designers, along with archival images, photographs of The Sea Ranch today and a full-scale architectural replica. The environmentally attentive design philosophies explored at The Sea Ranch, along with the now-iconic graphics, resonated globally and continue to influence architecture and design today.

Single-Gallery Presentations

New Work: Etel Adnan

On view September 1, 2018–January 6, 2019
Floor 4

Born in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1925, visual artist, poet and essayist Etel Adnan writes what must be communicated through language, and paints what cannot. While her earliest paintings favored pure abstraction, she is perhaps best known for her landscape works inspired by her long obsession with Mount Tamalpais. Adnan’s recent works once again return to abstraction, most specifically, color and it possibilities. A student of philosophy, Adnan came to Berkeley in 1955, and as an active participant in Ann O’Hanlon’s Perception Workshops in Mill Valley in the 1960s, developed her practice in dialogue with poets, experimental musicians, playwrights and SFMOMA, at its original location in the War Memorial Veteran’s Building. Though she now resides in Paris, the Bay Area remained her home for over fifty years, and was long the impetus behind her work. New Work: Etel Adnan presents new paintings and tapestries in SFMOMA’s first presentation of the artist’s work.

Leadership support for New Work: Etel Adnan is provided by Helen and Charles Schwab. Generous sup­port is provided by Alka and Ravin Agrawal, SFMOMA’s Contemporaries, Adriane Iann and Christian Stolz, and Robin Wright and Ian Reeves. Additional support is provided by Dolly and George Chammas.

Image: Etel Adnan, Untitled, 2018; courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery Beirut / Hamburg

Johannes Brus

On view October 27, 2018–May 27, 2019
Floor 3

On the occasion of an important acquisition to the photography collection, SFMOMA presents the first U.S. solo exhibition of German artist Johannes Brus. In addition to his photographic works, which vary in size from small to monumental, a selection of three of Brus’s sculptural works are on view, illuminating the breadth of his oeuvre. Known mainly as a sculptor, he studied at the Kunstakademie in Dusseldorf while Joseph Beuys was an instructor, with Anna and Bernhard Blume, Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter among Brus’s peers. In the 1970s, he made photographic experiments that often involved mixing chemicals and painting on his photographs. In an alchemic way, he plays with the medium of photography, reversing its rules by embracing everything that is not supposed to be done in the darkroom. In his works, Brus creates a strange setup with flying objects levitating mysteriously through space. His works suggest a relation to the occult and are often infused with humor. The exhibition is presented in the New to the Collection gallery, a space dedicated to uncovering new or unacknowledged work by an artist.

Image: Johannes Brus, Untitled, 1971; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Accessions Committee Fund purchase © Johannes Brus; photo: Don Ross