Press Office Exhibition


75 Years of Looking Forward commemorates SFMOMA's role in the history and future of modern and contemporary art

Companion show focuses on 17 seminal artists whose work has been collected in-depth

Released: January 21, 2009 ·

In celebration of the museum’s 75th anniversary (on January 18, 2010), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) will present two special exhibitions tracing the extraordinary growth and evolution of the collection and offering an in-depth look at SFMOMA’s past, present, and future.

On view from December 19, 2009 to May 16, 2010, SFMOMA: 75 Years of Looking Forward focuses on SFMOMA’s role in both the history and the future of modern and contemporary art through major acquisitions, groundbreaking exhibitions, and innovative public programming. Coorganized by Janet Bishop, SFMOMA Curator of Painting and Sculpture, and Corey Keller, SFMOMA Associate Curator of Photography, the exhibition will occupy the museum’s entire second floor.

Beginning with the museum’s founding in 1935 and continuing to the present day, SFMOMA: 75 Years of Looking Forward brings together nearly 250 works from the permanent collection, including painting, sculpture, media arts, photography, and architecture and design. Also highlighted is the art of Bruce Conner, Sol LeWitt, and Robert Rauschenberg, whose early-career work was presciently collected by SFMOMA, making it particularly well represented in the collection today.

In addition to featuring key artworks, SFMOMA: 75 Years of Looking Forward reveals the human-interest stories that were part of the growth and development of the institution. Among many other glimpses of “behind the gallery walls” business, visitors can read the correspondence surrounding the 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 two past directors express their passionate (if diametrically opposed) opinions about the painter Clyfford Still.

“San Francisco has long been a place of innovation, a place of revolution. And for 75 years, SFMOMA has been known for breaking new ground,” said Director Neal Benezra. “Today the museum continues to take risks, to celebrate new directions in art, and to advance scholarship worldwide.”

As a complement, a second exhibition—75 Years of Looking Forward: Focus on the Artists, Collecting in Depth—opens January 18, 2010, commemorating SFMOMA’s longstanding relationships with artists whose work has been featured in major exhibitions and collected in-depth. Organized by Gary Garrels, SFMOMA Elise S. Haas Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture, the exhibition explores the work of 17 artists whose iconic works were influential in defining movements from Abstract Expressionism to international contemporary art.

With a single gallery dedicated to each artist’s work, the presentation begins with a selection of paintings by Clyfford Still, who in 1975 made a gift to SFMOMA of 28 paintings that spanned his career. The next gallery will focus on the paintings of Philip Guston, whose 1980 retrospective at SFMOMA resulted in many of his paintings entering the collection. A third gallery will feature the paintings of Richard Diebenkorn; SFMOMA received its first Diebenkorn in 1955, and it was the first of several influential works to come to the museum. Other artists whose work will be the focus of a single gallery include Diane Arbus, Matthew Barney, Robert Gober, Ellsworth Kelly, Brice Marden, Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, Robert Ryman, Doris Salcedo, Richard Serra, Frank Stella, Kara Walker, Jeff Wall, and Andy Warhol.

Founded as the San Francisco Museum of Art in 1935 (and later renamed SFMOMA), the museum took a major step forward in 1995 with the opening of its Mario Botta–designed building, which paved the way for the transformation of the city’s South of Market neighborhood and propelled SFMOMA to a new level of performance and service. In recent years, SFMOMA has mounted an exceptional series of special exhibitions featuring the work of artists such as Diane Arbus, Robert Bechtle, Olafur Eliasson, Eva Hesse, Richard Tuttle, and Jeff Wall, exposing audiences to the most thought-provoking artists of our time. By organizing major shows that travel internationally, SFMOMA continues to advance scholarship in the field, bolstering San Francisco’s reputation worldwide as a hub for creativity and artistic expression.

Related 75th Anniversary Programming

On the occasion of the anniversary exhibition, SFMOMA will publish a catalogue combining highlights from the collection with a fascinating look at the formative moments, philosophies, and personalities that influenced the evolution of the institution. 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.

SFMOMA will also host a year-long series of educational programs, from family events and artist lectures to film and video screenings. The museum will also focus on creating a tour of the collection that will be available on visitors’ own handheld devices, such as cell phones and MP3 players.

In May 2010, the museum will host a grand gala event chaired by SFMOMA Trustee Norah Stone. The gala will honor those who have supported SFMOMA throughout its 75-year history, including donors, artists, friends, art-world leaders, and celebrities.

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