Press Office Exhibition

American Icons: Masterworks from SFMOMA and the Fisher Collection Opens at the Grand Palais, Paris on April 8, 2015

Iconic postwar American works by Ellsworth Kelly, Chuck Close, Donald Judd, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Alexander Calder and Agnes Martin are highlighted.

Released: September 30, 2014 · Download (338 KB PDF)

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is pleased to present American Icons: Masterworks from SFMOMA and the Fisher Collection (Icônes Américaines: Chefs-d’oeuvre du SFMOMA et de la collection Fisher), opening at the Grand Palais in Paris on April 8. Marking the first time these collections will be shown in tandem, American Icons features approximately 50 landmark paintings and sculptures by 14 leading American artists. The selection includes works joining the museum’s collection as a result of an unprecedented partnership forged with Doris and Donald Fisher, founders of the Gap. Curated by Gary Garrels, the Elise S. Haas Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture at SFMOMA, this exhibition will give European audiences a glimpse of the spirit and vibrancy the newly expanded museum will embody when it reopens in spring 2016. American Icons will be on view at the Grand Palais in Paris from April 8 to June 22, 2015, and at the Musée Granet in Aix-en-Provence from July 11 to October 18, 2015.

“We are thrilled to collaborate with the Grand Palais and the Musée Granet in presenting this selection of work by some of the most distinguished American artists, providing a preview of the quality and depth of art on view when we open our expanded building in 2016,” said Neal Benezra, director of SFMOMA. “American Icons offers a glimpse of SFMOMA’s future.”

Highlights of American Icons include:

  • Chuck Close – A jubilant portrait of the artist’s close friend and contemporary, Robert Rauschenberg, Robert (1996–97) is rendered in Close’s iconic, abstracted grid technique. Two additional large-scale portraits of artists in the exhibition, Agnes (1998), a portrait of Agnes Martin, and Roy I (1994), a portrait of Roy Lichtenstein, are also featured.
  • Dan Flavin Combining two types of fluorescent light, Flavin’s signature material, untitled (to dear durable Sol, from Stephen, Sonja, and Dan) (1969) is an early corner piece, dedicated to fellow artist Sol LeWitt, that brilliantly illuminates and transforms the architecture around it.
  • Donald Judd – Perhaps Judd’s most recognizable early wall-mounted work, To Susan Buckwalter (1964), is widely considered the artist’s first “progression” and was among his earliest pieces constructed by industrial fabricators.
  • Ellsworth Kelly – Painted while Kelly was living in Paris, Cité (1951) is one of Kelly’s most celebrated and well-known works, and represents his earliest experiments with chance methods.
  • Roy Lichtenstein – Live Ammo (Tzing!) (1962), with its minimal color palette, flat paint application, and field of red Benday dots, is among the artist’s first forays into the comic book-derived idiom for which he is famous.
  • Agnes Martin – An atmospheric early painting, Falling Blue (1963), exemplifies the delicate balance between wavering hand-painted surfaces and crisply ordered grids which underlies Martin’s entire body of work.
  • Andy Warhol – Liz #6 [Early Colored Liz] (1963), a portrait of actress Elizabeth Taylor, is an early and groundbreaking example of Warhol’s adoption of silkscreen as his medium and celebrity as his subject in the early 1960s.

Among the most celebrated artists in the exhibition, Ellsworth Kelly and Alexander Calder share strong connections to Paris, having created their first mature works in the city. The deep influence of their years living in France is evident in work made throughout their careers. Bringing seminal American works to a French audience, American Icons also extends SFMOMA’s history of partnership with French institutions. Examples of these important relationships include the critically acclaimed retrospective Garry Winogrand, which opened October 14, 2014, and runs through February 8, 2015, at the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris; a major survey of William Kentridge that traveled to the Jeu de Paume in 2010; the groundbreaking 2011 exhibition The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde presented at the Grand Palais; and the celebrated Marc Chagall retrospective, organized by the Grand Palais and the Musée National Marc Chagall, Nice, that traveled to San Francisco in 2003.

American Icons marks the international debut of SFMOMA On the Go, an array of new art experiences, exhibitions, and programs presented while the museum is closed for construction. While the majority of On the Go programming has been held in the Bay Area, American Icons reflects SFMOMA’s ability to extend its reach to a global scale, impacting international audiences.

A comprehensive catalogue will be published in conjunction with the exhibition, including an introductory essay by Garrels and substantial entries discussing each artist and the works in the exhibition. The publication will reflect the diversity of movements and styles seen in American Icons, as well as a wide variety of new approaches toward the use of materials, color and form.

American Icons is made possible by extraordinary support from the Mimi and Peter Haas Fund.

Leadership support is provided by the Prospect Creek Foundation. Major support is provided by Christie’s, Roberta and Steven Denning, and Helen and Charles R. Schwab. Generous support is provided by Gay-Lynn and Robert Blanding, Jean and James E. Douglas, Jr., and Thomas W. Weisel and Janet Barnes. Additional support is provided by the Gensler Family Foundation and Christine and Pierre Lamond.

When SFMOMA opens its expanded building in spring 2016, it will be home to nearly 30,000 works of modern and contemporary art, photography, design and media arts. The union of the Fisher Collection with SFMOMA’s expanded permanent collection will allow the museum to present one of the foremost assemblages of postwar art in the world.

During the last four decades, the Fishers amassed a museum-quality collection of art, including over 1,100 works by American and European masters from movements including Pop Art, Minimalism, Abstraction, Figurative Art, and Color Field painting. The Fisher Collection includes extensive groupings by seminal artists active from the 1960s to today and traces their creative evolution over the course of their careers. The collection complements SFMOMA’s holdings and augments or provides new concentrations in the work of such major figures as Alexander Calder, Chuck Close, Ellsworth Kelly, Anselm Kiefer, Roy Lichtenstein, Agnes Martin, Gerhard Richter, Richard Serra, and Andy Warhol, to name a few. Selections from the Fisher Collection were on view for the first time at SFMOMA in the 2010 exhibition Calder to Warhol: Introducing the Fisher Collection.

Jill Lynch 415.357.4172 jilynch@sfmoma.org
Clara Hatcher Baruth 415.357.4177 chatcher@sfmoma.org
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