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.
René Magritte, La chambre d’écoute (The Listening Room), 1952; The Menil Collection, Houston, Gift of Fariha Friedrich; © Charly Herscovici, Brussels / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
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.
Vija Celmins, Untitled (Ocean), 1977; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, bequest of Alfred M. Esberg; © Vija Celmins; photo: Don Ross
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
Paul Fusco, Untitled, from the series RFK Funeral Train, 1968, printed 2008; © Magnum Photos, courtesy Danziger Gallery
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.” Continue reading