The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) announced today the appointment of Henry Urbach as the Museum’s new Helen Hilton Raiser Curator of Architecture and Design. Urbach comes to SFMOMA from New York, where he most recently owned and directed Henry Urbach Architecture, a gallery of contemporary art and architecture that he founded in 1997. He will begin at SFMOMA in September 2006.
“Henry brings a wonderful combination of expertise and imagination to the Museum. We are looking forward to having him continue our tradition of innovative architecture and design exhibitions and acquisitions,” states SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra.
Of his SFMOMA appointment, Urbach says, “A curator of architecture and design can chart a progressive course by supporting significant practices and inspiring excellence. Building on SFMOMA’s long-standing commitment to innovation, we will develop exhibitions, accessions, and projects that define leading research in the field and intensify the dialogue between design and the visual arts. I’m delighted to be moving to the Bay Area and look forward to working closely with its extraordinary architecture and design community, as well as engaging a broad audience with programs that reveal the importance of design in our culture.”
Urbach has vast experience as a curator, teacher, lecturer, and published writer. His past curatorial projects, in addition to more than 50 exhibitions at his gallery, include Latent Space at Netherlands Architecture Institute, Rotterdam (2002); 2 x 2 at Apex Art, New York (2004); and Paradise 8 at Exit Art, New York (1999). Henry Urbach Architecture represented and exhibited many important artists and architects, including Aziz + Cucher, Richard Barnes, Marco Brambilla, Stephen Dean, Diller + Scofidio, E. V. Day, Langlands & Bell, An Te Liu, LOT-EK, Le Corbusier, Neal Rock, Lindy Roy, Ezra Stoller, and Lebbeus Woods. Urbach has also served on curatorial and advisory panels for Exit Art, Artists Space, the Storefront for Art and Architecture, the Architectural League of New York, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Urbach received a master’s degree in architecture from Columbia University in 1990. He earned his bachelor’s degree in the history and theory of architecture from Princeton University, magna cum laude, in 1984. In 1995 Urbach received a master’s degree in the history and theory of architecture from Princeton, where he is currently a PhD candidate.
Urbach has been published in many journals and books devoted to architectural history, theory, and criticism, including Assemblage, ANY, Gender Space Architecture, The Journal of Architecture, Scroope: Cambridge Architecture Journal, and Sites. He has written catalogue essays about the work of Interim Office of Architecture, LOT-EK, Simon Ungers, and numerous other architects. He served as a contributing editor for Interior Design magazine from 1997 to 2001, and he has written for Metropolis, The Village Voice, Design Book Review, Artforum, and The New York Times Magazine.
Throughout its history SFMOMA has provided an active forum for examining issues of architecture and design as they relate to modern art. It presented an impressive number of exhibitions in the field before officially founding the Department of Architecture and Design in 1983. Over the last two decades SFMOMA has presented a full schedule of exhibitions, publications, and educational events, including major surveys of the work of living architects, an annual lecture series, and an international design competition.
Paolo Polledri was SFMOMA’s first curator of architecture and design and served until March 1994. Aaron Betsky succeeded Polledri in 1995. Under Betsky the department presented such acclaimed exhibitions as Design Afoot: Athletic Shoes, 1995–2000 (2000); Far Out: Bay Area Design, 1967–1973 (1999); Tiborocity: Design and Undesign by Tibor Kalman, 1979–1999 (1999); Sitting on the Edge: Modernist Design from the Collection of Michael and Gabrielle Boyd (1998); Do Normal: Recent Dutch Design (1998); and Fabrications: Bodybuildings (1998). Betsky also led SFMOMA to become the first American museum to collect Web sites as design objects.
Joseph Rosa served as curator of the department from 2002–6. His tenure was distinguished by such creative and groundbreaking exhibitions as Glamour: Fashion, Industrial Design, Architecture (2004); Body Design (2002); and the first four design series presentations, which featured the work of Lindy Roy (2003), Yves Béhar (2004), 2×4 (2005), and Xefirotarch (2006).