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Special 2010 Programming Reveals the Stories Behind Eight Decades of Trailblazing Art and Exhibitions in San Francisco

Released: August 06, 2009 ·

In 2010, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) will mark its 75th year as a pioneering force in art worldwide and an unparalleled destination for the people of the San Francisco Bay Area.

“SFMOMA is a tremendous resource here in San Francisco, bringing us the most engaging art of our time, providing education and enriching experiences for residents and visitors from neighboring communities and across the world,” said SFMOMA Board Chairman Charles “Chuck” Schwab. “The anniversary celebration is a chance to celebrate all the museum brings to our community and to be inspired about new and creative ways we can expand and improve SFMOMA for the future.”

Through special exhibitions, events, public programs, and an anniversary publication, the museum will offer visitors new insight into the artists and individuals that have made SFMOMA a center of innovation and risk-taking in the art world and a cultural beacon on the West Coast. Special programming will also tell the story of how museum staff, artists, and people from the Bay Area and beyond have established at SFMOMA one of the most important collections of modern and contemporary art in the world.

“SFMOMA has had an extraordinary relationship to the city of San Francisco and the global art community during the past 75 years,” said Director Neal Benezra. “The museum has evolved in tandem with this vibrant community, engaging in a reciprocal exchange of ideas and embracing new ways of thinking. Since its founding in 1935, SFMOMA has been committed to looking forward, and in 2010, we invite the public to join us in celebrating the museum’s future through the lens of its remarkable history.”

From organizing Jackson Pollock’s first solo exhibition in 1945 and hosting the first presentation of Judy Chicago’s feminist opus The Dinner Party in 1979, to being the first museum to collect and present Matthew Barney’s work in 1991 and in 2008 organizing the first U.S. survey of projects by Olafur Eliasson, SFMOMA has consistently broken new ground, challenging the conventional wisdom of what art museums should present and collect. SFMOMA was a pioneer among U.S. museums in collecting photography and establishing programs in film, architecture and design, and media arts.

In its approach to exhibitions, SFMOMA has a proven record of presenting artists at key moments in their careers—whether by offering a fresh look or a reconsideration of an artist’s work, showcasing an artist at a critical moment, or helping to bring greater attention to an artist with an exciting new vision. Recent SFMOMA exhibitions of the work of artists such as Diane Arbus, Robert Bechtle, Philip Guston, Eva Hesse, William Kentridge, Dorothea Lange, Sol LeWitt, Richard Tuttle, and Jeff Wall have been seen by audiences at major museums worldwide, fostering new appreciation for their work.

Over eight decades, SFMOMA has built its collection by championing the most important and challenging artists of our time. Through the vision and generosity of donors like Albert Bender, Elise S. Haas, Harry and Mary Margaret Anderson, Pamela and Richard Kramlich, and Phyllis Wattis, SFMOMA’s collection has achieved international stature. The standout 1991 Haas gift, Henri Matisse’s 1905 masterpiece Femme au chapeau, is SFMOMA’s most celebrated painting and a classic example of Fauvism in the collection. Early gifts of works by Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Rufino Tamayo established SFMOMA’s strength in Mexican Modernism, and a bequest of pictures by Ansel Adams and other Group f/64 members in 1941 anchored the growing photography collection. In recent years, SFMOMA has secured outstanding works directly from the personal collections of artists including Vija Celmins, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Ellsworth Kelly, Brice Marden, Robert Rauschenberg, and Cy Twombly.

In support of the steady and focused growth of its collections and exhibitions, this spring SFMOMA expanded its facilities with a new rooftop sculpture garden, and in April 2009 the museum announced early stage planning for an expansion that will double its gallery space and support continued institutional growth.

A place of learning and inspiration for the Bay Area, SFMOMA takes a unique approach to educational programming by inviting new forms of exchange between the museum and the public. From its earliest days, the museum has been a leader in utilizing media and new technologies to connect with its audiences—from creating a television show about art in the 1950s to launching one of the world’s first museum websites in 1995 and offering rich multimedia content about art via an iPhone application set to launch this December. The museum serves tens of thousands of students each year, offering direct exposure to art and artists. Through lectures, film programs, live and interactive art performances, and family days for audiences of all ages, SFMOMA embraces and reflects the diversity of its community and contributes to the cultural vitality that defines San Francisco.

Anniversary Events and Exhibitions

Beginning in January 2010, SFMOMA will present a series of 75th anniversary events and exhibitions that will give visitors an unprecedented opportunity to experience the scope of SFMOMA’s collection and to celebrate the formative moments, philosophies, and personalities that have influenced the museum’s evolution. In addition, a special 75th anniversary publication will feature never-before-published material chronicling SFMOMA’s history and its impact in the Bay Area and worldwide. A new multimedia museum guide will also be available for use on visitors’ own handheld devices, giving the public new pathways into the collection and revealing the colorful stories behind SFMOMA’s growth.

The anniversary festivities will kick off with a free weekend celebration from Saturday, January 16 through Monday, January 18, 2010. Saturday programming will feature artist talks, a community talk show, and special evening performances by artists MTAA and Allison Smith. Sunday will be devoted to families, with hands-on art projects and participatory family interviews about art and artists in the fifth-floor galleries. On Monday, January 18, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the day SFMOMA was founded 75 years ago, the museum will celebrate the spirit of service by having Smith recreate the “Skills and Service” program first introduced by the museum during World War II.  She will be inviting veterans and their families, as well as general museum visitors, to participate in the decoration of a memorial wreath that will be taken to the War Memorial Building on Memorial Day 2010. SFMOMA will also offer free art conservation consulting to visitors who bring in works from their own collections.

Throughout the anniversary season, SFMOMA will present a series of exhibitions under the heading 75 Years of Looking Forward that will tell the story of the artists, collectors, cultural mavericks, and San Francisco leaders who founded, built, and have animated the museum.

On view throughout 2010, The Anniversary Show will focus on SFMOMA’s historic and ongoing influence in San Francisco and worldwide through key acquisitions, groundbreaking exhibitions, and innovative public programming. The Anniversary Show brings together nearly 250 works from the collection, including painting, sculpture, media arts, photography, and architecture and design, and is co-organized by Janet Bishop, SFMOMA curator of painting and sculpture; Corey Keller, SFMOMA associate curator of photography; and Sarah Roberts, SFMOMA associate curator of collections and research.

Covering the period from the museum’s founding in 1935 to the present, the exhibition will feature a range of artists whose early career work SFMOMA had the foresight to collect, including Bruce Conner, Sol LeWitt, and Robert Rauschenberg. In addition, The Anniversary Show will give an insider’s view of the museum’s history. For example, visitors can read the correspondence surrounding founding director Grace McCann Morley’s visionary 1945 purchase of Jackson Pollock’s Guardians of the Secret (1943); watch clips of SFMOMA’s 1950s television show, Art in Your Life; and listen to past SFMOMA directors express their passionate (if diametrically opposed) opinions about the painter Clyfford Still.

As a complement, the exhibition Focus on Artists will commemorate the museum’s long-term relationships with artists whose work has been collected in depth and shown in important exhibitions throughout SFMOMA’s history. Organized by Gary Garrels, SFMOMA Elise S. Haas Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture, the exhibition dedicates a gallery to each of 18 artists whose iconic works were influential in defining movements from Abstract Expressionism to Postminimalism and international contemporary art, including Diane Arbus, Matthew Barney, Richard Diebenkorn, Robert Gober, Dan Graham, Philip Guston, Ellsworth Kelly, Brice Marden, Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, Robert Ryman, Doris Salcedo, Richard Serra, Frank Stella, Clyfford Still, Kara Walker, Jeff Wall, and Andy Warhol. Focus on Artists, on view through June 6, 2010, will celebrate the stories behind SFMOMA’s collection, offering insights into how the museum came to acquire particular objects, why people collect and donate to museums, and how relationships between collectors and museums form over time.

As another part of the anniversary celebration, SFMOMA will explore the variety and vitality of the California photographic tradition—and the museum’s role in it—in the exhibition The View from Here. Organized by Assistant Curator of Photography Erin O’Toole, The View From Here presents a survey of California photography through the lens of the SFMOMA collection, beginning with the origins of photography in the 1840s and continuing to the present day. Highlights include Carleton Watkins’s dramatic views of Yosemite; shocking panoramas of the devastation of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake; pictures by local Modernists including Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Edward Weston, and Minor White; and conceptual photography from the 1970s by artists such as Robert H. Cumming, Robert Heinecken, and Ed Ruscha. On view through June 20, 2010, the exhibition also includes work by photographers whose primary subject has been the changing western landscape, such as Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, and Joe Deal, as well as recent photographs by Anthony Hernandez, Larry Sultan, and Henry Wessel.

The Department of Architecture and Design has commissioned artist Ewan Gibbs to create a series of 18 drawings of the city of San Francisco. On view through June 20, 2010, the drawings are inspired by photographs the artist took with a digital camera while visiting San Francisco in the spring of 2008. Gibbs depicts city landmarks, sporting events, and common streetscapes in his work. He begins with a recognizable image and then systematically reduces it to a grid of pencil marks—slashes and circles—on graph paper.

Through June 6, 2010, the Department of Media Arts will premiere the newly acquired film THREE SCREEN RAY (2006) by the late San Francisco–based artist Bruce Conner. A master of diverse art forms from assemblage to photograms, Conner’s experimental, non-narrative short films of the 1960s established him as a leading figure in avant-garde film. THREE SCREEN RAY is an extended version of the artist’s second film, COSMIC RAY (1961), reedited into three projections. Like the original single-screen version, THREE SCREEN RAY features Ray Charles’s 1959 hit song “What’d I Say” set to an ecstatic, fast-paced collage of found imagery including newsreel footage of atomic bomb explosions, striptease dancing, comic strips, flashing lights, and Conner’s signature countdown leader. The work will be accompanied by a selection of videos from the museum’s collection.

On view in the Koret Visitor Education Center will be Dispatches from the Archives, an exhibition celebrating SFMOMA’s rich and colorful history of ephemera, graphic design, and publications. Organized by Stephanie Pau, SFMOMA manager of interpretation, this presentation samples design objects from the museum’s archives and also highlights SFMOMA’s long history of innovative public programs and events. Featured objects will include public program posters, SFMOMA-published magazines, belt buckles, invitations, and ephemera, collectively illustrating the story of an institution that expresses itself through outstanding visual materials.

Related 75th Anniversary Programming

An extensive anniversary catalogue, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: 75 Years of Looking Forward will combine highlights from the collection with a fascinating look at the vision and personalities that influenced the institution’s evolution. Featuring diverse voices and never-before-published photographs and documents from SFMOMA’s archives, the volume will offer an unprecedented perspective on the past—and future—of this distinguished museum.

In addition to presenting a yearlong series of educational programs from family events and artist lectures to film and video screenings, SFMOMA will launch a multimedia tour of the collection that will be available on visitors’ own handheld devices, such as cell phones and MP3 players, and as an application for iPhones.

On Saturday, May 15, the museum will host an anniversary gala chaired by SFMOMA Trustee Norah Sharpe Stone honoring the donors, artists, friends, art-world leaders, civic leaders, and volunteers who have supported SFMOMA throughout its 75 year history.



75 Years of Looking Forward: The Anniversary Show: December 19, 2009–January 16, 2011

75 Years of Looking Forward: Focus on Artists: January 16–June 6, 2010

75 Years of Looking Forward: The View From Here: January 16–June 20, 2010

Ewan Gibbs: January 16–June 20, 2010

Long Play: Bruce Conner and Singles from the Collection: January 16–June 6, 2010



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