SFMOMA to Debut Major Vija Celmins and René Magritte Exhibitions in 2018
The Train: RFK’s Last Journey, Susan Meiselas, John Akomfrah and Alexander Calder Among the Highlights of SFMOMA’s Ambitious Exhibition Schedule
Museum Takes Its Popular “Send Me SFMOMA” Initiative Global with Partnerships in the U.S., Europe, Asia and New Zealand, Enabling Other Institutions to Share Their Collections in New Ways
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) announced details of its 2017–18 exhibition schedule and cutting-edge digital initiatives. One of the world’s foremost museums of modern and contemporary art, the newly expanded and transformed SFMOMA opened in May 2016, with nearly triple the exhibition space and a greatly augmented collection. Since then the museum has broadened its activities serving artists, scholars and more than 1.2 million visitors in its first year.
“We are committed to presenting an expansive spectrum of art from the 20th and 21st centuries, revisiting the innovations of modern artists — including René Magritte and Robert Rauschenberg — and introducing our large audiences to the important and timely work of contemporary artists such as Vija Celmins, John Akomfrah, and Susan Meiselas,” said Neal Benezra, Helen and Charles Schwab Director at SFMOMA. “Since our opening last spring, we have welcomed more than twice the number of visitors the museum received historically, with more families and youth visitors than ever before. In the coming year, we look forward to engaging visitors with seven floors of dynamic art and design exhibitions, while connecting a devoted body of online followers to the riches of the collection.”
Looking Back on the Opening Year
Since its May 2016 opening, the expanded and transformed SFMOMA, designed by Snøhetta, has served as an engaging gathering place for diverse audiences, enabling the museum to foster deeper ties with its community.
The museum can now display a greater breadth of its 34,000 works of architecture and design, media arts, painting and sculpture and photography, as well as postwar and contemporary art from its groundbreaking partnership with the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection. Currently on view at the museum are Julie Mehretu’s site-specific painting HOWL, eon (I, II) (2017), created as part of a new art commissioning program; a major Walker Evans retrospective, for which SFMOMA is the only U.S. venue; Soundtracks, the museum’s first large-scale group exhibition centered on the role of sound in contemporary art; and New Work: Kerry Tribe, the premiere of the artist’s immersive video installation, commissioned by SFMOMA, which offers insight into the world of Standardized Patients — professional actors trained to portray real patients in a simulated clinical environment as part of medical students’ training.
In support of SFMOMA’s mission to engage with the art and artists of our time, the museum has made two major curatorial appointments since opening, including the appointment of Eungie Joo to the newly established role of curator of contemporary art. The role cements the museum’s commitment to new generations of artists across all mediums, as well as new thinking and scholarship on a local, national and international level. Clément Chéroux, entering his second year as senior curator of photography, has brought a global perspective and deep expertise in the realm of modern and contemporary photography.
The new SFMOMA has become a place of conversation, collaboration and learning across disciplines, as nearly 50,000 K–12 students have been brought into the museum to explore the arts since the building’s opening. Public dialogue has flourished in the SFMOMA community through more than 100 events and programs, including Public Tours and Artist Talks. Coinciding with the 2017 FOG Design+Art Fair, the symposium Yours, Mine, and Ours: Museum Models of Public-Private Partnership brought together international museum leaders and visionary collectors to discuss the current and future state of collaboration between museums and collectors. Also in the past year, the Performance in Progress program brought three groundbreaking commissioned live works to the museum, and the new Modern Cinema film series, established by SFMOMA and SFFILM, presented more than 50 film screenings. In September 2017, the museum launched Public Knowledge, a two-year initiative in partnership with the San Francisco Public Library that aims to promote public dialogue on the cultural impact of urban change through artist projects, research collaborations, public programs, and publishing. Participating artists include Burak Arikan, Bik Van der Pol, Minerva Cuevas, Josh Kun and Stephanie Syjuco.
SFMOMA’s digital offerings also expanded greatly in the past year, with the generous support of Bloomberg Philanthropies, offering pioneering digital experiences to visitors at the museum and online. The SFMOMA app, a 2017 Webby Award honoree with over 100,000 downloads, reinvented the museum audio guide with location-aware technology and unique gallery tours voiced by Errol Morris, Philippe Petit and the cast of HBO’s Silicon Valley. Other popular interactive elements include the digital photogram kiosk Self Composed, developed in partnership with Adobe Design, in the Pritzker Center’s Photography Interpretive Gallery and touch screens and digital tables in the galleries that allow visitors to explore artworks and the careers of artists more deeply.
SFMOMA’s restaurant In Situ also received rave reviews for its innovative concept and menu. It was awarded the San Francisco Chronicle’s Restaurant of the Year in 2016, named one of Eater’s Best New Restaurants in America in 2017 and became a finalist in the prestigious James Beard Awards’ Best New Restaurant category.
In 2018 SFMOMA will present major exhibitions of René Magritte and Vija Celmins, each of whom redefined the boundaries of art with their very distinct practices.
A global exclusive presentation, René Magritte: The Fifth Season (May 19–October 28, 2018) will focus on the latter half of Magritte’s career, a period of remarkable artistic transformation and revitalization. Featuring more than 50 paintings and a dozen works on paper, the exhibition will reveal Magritte as an artist who subverts our expectations of the world around us. The Fifth Season will open with the artist questioning the modernism of his youth, experimenting with elements of Impressionism, Fauvism and Expressionism, and follow his developing strategies for illuminating the ways that paintings both create and expose the gaps between appearance and reality.
Spotlighting the work of one of the most important artists of her generation, Vija Celmins: To Fix the Image in Memory (December 2018–March 2019) will be the first North American retrospective of the artist’s work in more than 25 years. In a continuation of SFMOMA’s commitment to exhibiting and collecting artists who emerged in the 1960s, the exhibition will highlight Celmins’ “re-descriptions” of the physical world through art as a way of understanding human consciousness through lived experience. SFMOMA will present the global debut of this retrospective, which will feature 140 works including paintings, drawings, and sculptures.
The Pritzker Center for Photography, the largest space dedicated to photography in any art museum in the United States, will continue to highlight SFMOMA’s dedication to the medium with The Train: RFK’s Last Journey, examining a historically important event from different perspectives; Selves and Others: Gifts to the Collection from Carla Emil and Rich Silverstein, looking at the complexity of identity through portraits; and Carolyn Drake: Wild Pigeon, presenting a recent acquisition.
The Train: RFK’s Last Journey, March 17–June 10, 2018
On June 8, 1968, three days after the assassination of Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, his body was carried by a funeral train from New York City to Washington, D.C. for burial at Arlington National Cemetery. Just two months after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and five years after President John F. Kennedy’s death, Robert Kennedy’s passing united diverse communities grieving the loss of a politician who had represented hope for much of the nation during a tumultuous decade.
In conjunction with the 50th anniversary of his death, The Train: RFK’s Last Journey looks at this historical journey through three distinct artists’ projects shown together for the first time. Presented in three rooms, each dedicated to one artist, the exhibition features approximately 80 photographs, a video installation and a 70mm film projection.
“This multidisciplinary exhibition shows how art can inform and expand our understanding of history through photographs, videos and documents from different points of view,” said Clément Chéroux, senior curator of photography at SFMOMA. “By bringing historical and contemporary works together in dialogue, we aim to demonstrate a fresh approach to photography at SFMOMA.”
The first work, RFK Funeral Train (1968), is a group of color photographs by Magnum photojournalist Paul Fusco. Taken aboard the funeral train, the images capture the thousands of mourners who spontaneously lined the railway tracks to pay their final respects. Commissioned by Look magazine, Fusco took hundreds of photographs using a panning motion that created a remarkable combination of blurring and light, heightening the movement of the train and illuminating the emotion of the public. Fusco’s images of individuals, communities and families holding flags and farewell signs present a poignant portrait of the American people unified in mourning. SFMOMA is acquiring 26 of these photographs, and several will be on view in the exhibition.
Looking from the opposite vantage point, the second work features photographs and home movies made by the spectators along the train route. These personal snapshots and testimonies were collected by Dutch artist Rein Jelle Terpstra for his project The People’s View (2014–18). Fascinated by Fusco’s photographs, Terpstra retraced the journey of the train, knocking on doors and using Facebook to reach out to the people who had been alongside the tracks that day. On display for the first time, The People’s View captures this important historical event from the reverse perspective of eyewitnesses mourning Robert F. Kennedy.
The third work, June 8, 1968 (2009), by French contemporary artist Philippe Parreno, is a 70mm film reenactment of the funeral train’s journey, inspired by Fusco’s original photographs. The seven-minute film installation creates a sense of floating or suspension, what Parreno has called “the point of view of the dead.” Throughout the film, Parreno examines the tension between still and moving image, past and present.
The Train: RFK’s Last Journey is accompanied by an illustrated publication produced by Editions Textuel in French and English featuring an essay by Clément Chéroux and artist interviews with Paul Fusco, Rein Jelle Terpstra and Philippe Parreno. Following its debut at SFMOMA, the exhibition will travel to the Rencontres d’Arles photography festival in France, July through September 2018.
Generous support for The Train: RFK’s Last Journey is provided by Nion McEvoy and Wes and Kate Mitchell. Additional support provided by Lynn Kirshbaum and Kathleen and Robert Matschullat.
Selves and Others: Gifts to the Collection from Carla Emil and Rich Silverstein, March 24–September 23, 2018
The most compelling photographic portraits reveal more than simply a sitter’s physical appearance — they hint at an individual’s character, suggest a psychological state or perhaps even offer a glimpse of the sitter’s soul. Drawn from the many generous gifts trustee Carla Emil and her husband Rich Silverstein have donated to SFMOMA’s collection since the late 1990s, Selves and Others explores the variety of ways photographers have addressed the complexity of identity through portraiture: of the self; of personas or avatars; of family members, lovers and friends; and of strangers. The exhibition will feature approximately 120 works made from the 19th century to the present, including photographs by Julia Margaret Cameron, Rineke Dijkstra, Man Ray, Cindy Sherman and Gillian Wearing, among many others.
Carolyn Drake: Wild Pigeon, March 17–September 23, 2018
Between 2007 and 2013, American photographer Carolyn Drake made several visits to Uyghuristan in northwest China, a Muslim-majority province, where she engaged in a collaborative work with the people she met, asking them to draw on and alter her photographs. In 2017, SFMOMA acquired the entire set of 32 unique photo-collages made for the Wild Pigeon project. This series will be presented in a newly dedicated space for recent contemporary photography acquisitions in the Pritzker Center for Photography.
Susan Meiselas: Mediations (July–October 2018), an exclusive U.S. presentation of the career retrospective of this acclaimed photographer, will cover a wide range of subjects, from war and human rights issues to cultural identity and the sex industry.
In the Media Arts special exhibition gallery, the museum will present the U.S. premiere of John Akomfrah: Vertigo Sea (March 3–September 16, 2018). The Ghana-born British artist’s three-channel video installation, which debuted at the 2015 Venice Biennale, merges the strands of narrative fiction, natural-history documentary and film essay to create a voyage of discovery, while offering poignant reflections on mortality.
The coming year will also feature exciting presentations of modern and contemporary art in the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection Galleries, including Alexander Calder: Scaling Up (October 21, 2017–August 19, 2018). The exhibition will delve into the small-scale and surprisingly tactile beginnings of the artist’s largest sculptures and show the process of scaling from initial concept to final work through more than a dozen examples drawn from the Fisher Collection and the Calder Foundation. Louise Bourgeois Spiders (October 7, 2017–September 4, 2018) fills the walls and floor of the museum’s sculpture gallery with six large-scale spiders illustrating Bourgeois’ compelling and complex conception of the spider, in scales from the intimate to the monumental. Richard Artschwager, Rebecca Horn, Sol LeWitt and Christopher Wilmarth are among the other artists whose work will be featured in the museum’s ongoing series of focused presentations in the Fisher Collection Galleries.
Highlighting the shifting landscape of industrial design in California since the digital revolution, Designed in California (January 27–May 27, 2018) will focus on designs that are human-centered, ecologically conscious and driven by new technological capacity. Donald Judd / Specific Furniture (July–November 2018) will take a comprehensive look at Judd’s furniture as its own practice, independent from his artworks and motivated by entirely different criteria.
SFMOMA made headlines this year with its popular Send Me SFMOMA initiative, which allows people to text a color, a feeling, or even an emoji to the museum and receive an image of an artwork from its collection via text message in response. To take the project global, SFMOMA is now working with institutions in the U.S., Europe, Asia and New Zealand to help them create similar services, utilizing their own collections to connect with their communities.
Generous support for René Magritte: The Fifth Season is provided by Jean and James E. Douglas, Jr.
Generous support for The Train: RFK’s Last Journey is provided by Nion T. McEvoy and Wes and Kate Mitchell. Additional support provided by Lynn Kirshbaum and Kathleen and Robert Matschullat.
Designed in California is supported by the Elaine McKeon Endowed Exhibition Fund and the Diane and Howard Zack Fund for Architecture and Design. Additional support is provided by the Sanger Family Architecture and Design Exhibition Fund.
Lead support for Julie Mehretu is provided by Carolyn and Preston Butcher. Major support is provided by Agnes Gund and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund. Generous support is provided by Ethan Beard and Wayee Chu, Gay-Lynn and Robert Blanding, Adam and Kate Clammer, Concepción S. and Irwin Federman, Robert S. Fisher, Jessica and Jason Moment, Diana Nelson and John Atwater, Denise Littlefield Sobel, Susan and Jim Swartz, Pat Wilson, and Sonya Yu and Zachary Lara. Additional support is provided by Alka and Ravin Agrawal and Dolly and George Chammas. HOWL, eon (I, II) is commissioned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and is a gift of Helen and Charles Schwab. SFMOMA’s Art Commissioning Endowed Fund is supported by Roberta and Steve Denning, Patricia W. Fitzpatrick, Diana Nelson and John Atwater, and Denise Littlefield Sobel. Art Commissions at SFMOMA are also supported by illy coffee.
Walker Evans is organized by the Centre Pompidou, Paris, in collaboration with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Lead support is provided by Randi and Bob Fisher. Major support is provided by Andy and Mary Pilara, the Lisa and John Pritzker Family Fund, and Diana and Steve Strandberg. Generous support is provided by the William and Elizabeth Patterson Family Fund, and Joni Binder and Robert Shwarts. Additional support is provided by Michele and Christopher Meany, and Abby and Gene Schnair.
Support for Soundtracks is provided by the French American Cultural Society and the Office for Contemporary Art Norway.
Generous support for the New Work series is provided by Alka and Ravin Agrawal, SFMOMA’s Contemporaries, Adriane Iann and Christian Stolz and Robin Wright and Ian Reeves.
Modern Cinema’s Founding Supporters are Carla Emil and Rich Silverstein. Generous support is provided by Nion T. McEvoy and the Susan Wildberg Morgenstein Fund. The fall 2017 season of Modern Cinema is supported by James C. Hormel and Michael P. Nguyen.
Public Knowledge is organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in partnership with the San Francisco Public Library. The project has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.
SFMOMA’s digital initiatives are generously supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.
The Pritzker Center for Photography is made possible by the Lisa and John Pritzker Family Fund. The Photography Interpretive Gallery is generously supported by the McEvoy Family. Photography Interpretive Gallery exhibits are supported by Bank of the West. Additional support is provided by Nion T. McEvoy; a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor; and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.