Category: SFMOMA

LACMA, Getty among 134 museums joining Google's art site

April 2, 2012 |  9:01 pm


Google knows something about the power in numbers, even in an art website.

Google Art Project, which launched last year with virtual tours and digitized artworks from 17 museums, has added 134 new museums to its site, including four from California.

Initially, no museums from the state were included in the project; now the Getty Museum, the L.A. County Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the De Young Museum in San Francisco are participating.

Other newcomers in the U.S. include the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., the Rubin Museum in New York, and the White House.
New partners from outside the U.S. include the Sao Paulo Museum of Modern Art in Brazil, the Musée d’Orsay in France, the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico, Islamic Museum of Qatar, and the National Museum of Indonesia, just to name a few. Altogether, 40 countries are now represented.

This expansion addresses early complaints from cultural critics that the site was too Eurocentric and Old Masters-heavy, because of offerings from such venerable institutions as the Frick Collection and Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Uffizi in Florence, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia, and the National Gallery in London.

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An artistic dialogue about Proposition 8 at SFMOMA

November 19, 2011 |  8:00 am


Since 2008, the issues of Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California, have been clamorously debated, but at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the topic is addressed with what is meant to be quiet deliberation in the exhibition "The Air We Breathe."

Curator Apsara DiQuinzio watched the debate over Prop. 8 develop.  "So often events unfold around us in the world and artists don't often get to actively participate," she said. The show evolved from her book proposal in response to a Teiger Foundation solicitation for ideas that were "outside of the box."

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Five highs and five lows in the history of feminist art, subject of the new documentary '!W.A.R.'

June 16, 2011 |  9:00 am

Guerillagirls Artist Lynn Hershman Leeson has been making a documentary about feminist art off and on since 1964, when she says she was a “freshly radicalized graduate student at Berkeley.” Since then, while making her own identity-obsessed art (performance, photography and more) as well as three films of different genres starring Tilda Swinton, she has gathered 12,428 minutes of footage—feminist performances, protests and interviews included.

While that stop-and-go working method surely has its disadvantages, fundraising momentum among them, it also has an upside. The result—an 83-minute feature called "!W.A.R." with a nod to the 1960s collective known as "Women Art Revolution"--surveys a broader range of artists over a broader period of time than any other that film on the subject to date.

It covers a cluster of artworks exploring issues of identity, sexuality and domesticity, from a 1964 performance piece by Yoko Ono inviting the audience to cut off her clothes to a 1992 performance by Janine Antoni using her hair as a paintbrush, with colorful bits from the Guerrilla Girls (shown above) at various turns.

It includes conversations with deceased artists like Nancy Spero and Hannah Wilke. And it revisits the political roots of feminism, which shared its lifeblood with the same cultural revolution that led a generation to protest the Vietnam War. In the process, the film does not pretend to be comprehensive but offers a sampling of  moments in the rather fluid and dynamic history of feminist art, in which seeming achievements are frequently undercut and apparent obstacles often overcome.

Below we've culled a list of 10 memorable moments, both good and bad, that figure in the film.

"!W.A.R." had its L.A. debut at the Hammer Museum Tuesday and runs at the Laemmle Music Hall 3 in Beverly Hills from Friday to June 23.

--Jori Finkel


1962: The first edition of H.W. Janson’s "History of Art," which quickly becomes a classroom staple, does not include any women artists.

1971: The catalogue for LACMA’s groundbreaking “Art and Technology” show is published, featuring a

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Art review: 'The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso and the Parisian Avant-Garde' at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

May 29, 2011 |  4:00 pm

STein Matisse SAN FRANCISCO -- After this city was devastated in 1906 by a magnitude 7.9 earthquake and the blazing inferno the temblor started, a pair of Bay Area expatriates came home from France to check on the family's local properties.

Michael Stein, who had been superintendent of San Francisco's Market Street trolley company, and his wife Sarah Samuels, daughter of a comfortable merchant, had followed his younger siblings Leo and Gertrude to Paris two years before. There, all the Steins became absorbed in the small but scrappy world of avant-garde painting and sculpture. When they arrived back in California, Michael and Sarah brought a piece of that world with them.

Three paintings by Henri Matisse were packed in their luggage. The artist -- age 36 (like Sarah) and being touted in the Paris press as the leader of a bravura new school of painting that cared little for the objective use of local color to describe a subject -- was virtually unknown on this side of the Atlantic. The Steins' paintings were the first by Matisse to be seen in the United States.

Still, one has to wonder: Who, under the catastrophic circumstances of a city in smoldering ruins, would think to bring avant-garde paintings on a 5,600-mile journey to do real estate reconnaissance? Michael and Sarah's West Coast friends thought they were a bit nuts.

However, as a large and engrossing new exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art demonstrates only too well, the couple would have thought it crazy to leave their passion behind -- earthquake or not. "The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso and the Parisian Avant-Garde" makes that plain.

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Picasso season wraps up in New York -- and starts up in San Francisco

May 26, 2011 |  9:15 am

Picassoboyleadinghorse You don't have to leave the U.S. to see some of Picasso's greatest paintings, thanks to choice holdings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim and MoMA in New York -- especially MoMA. But this year it's easier than ever to see a range of works by the prolific artist on either coast.

After traveling to the Seattle Art Museum and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, "Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso" reaches its final U.S. venue next month, opening at the De Young Museum in San Francisco on June 11. The survey spans eight decades and many media, including paintings and works on paper.

French art critics have faulted the Picasso museum in Paris, which is closed for a $60-million renovation, for sending works abroad in order to raise construction funds. California fans might just be glad to see about 150 works closer to home, despite a hefty $25 admission price for adults.

Meanwhile, across town, SFMOMA has borrowed dozens of Picasso paintings and works on paper from private collections as well as museums for a show over a decade in the making: "The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde." MoMA alone loaned several works, including the  double portrait "Boy Leading a Horse," shown above, from the artist's so-called rose period.

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With 195 new donations, SFMOMA fills in gaps in collection -- and in Fisher material

February 4, 2011 |  8:45 am

Don and Doris Fisher's recent contribution of some 1,100 artworks to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art easily ranks as the most generous gift (or, more precisely, 100-year renewable loan) in the museum's history. But it doesn't tell the most generous or expansive story imaginable about contemporary art. That's one way, anyway, to read the museum's announcement Thursday that it has managed to secure a staggering 195 promised gifts from nine other local collectors.

Judging from the museum's initial description of the artworks, many fall in the realm of conceptual art -- the one collecting field where the Fishers, drawn to high-impact Pop Art and minimalist sculpture, did not venture so adventurously.

The new donations for instance include 30 sculptures and works on paper by Joseph Beuys, the shamanistic figure known for turning personal emblems and rituals into sculpture and performance (as in the image above), and 12 works by Bruce Nauman, whose output is varied in form but pretty consistently challenging.

In his article on the acquisition, San Francisco Chronicle art critic Kenneth Baker also singles out two works by Jackson Pollock "from his pivotal period at the turn of the 1950s," a 1963 figurative painting by Francis Bacon, and an Yves Klein sponge painting done in his trademark color blue. As Baker reports, the museum sees all of these acquisitions as the first phase in a "Collections Campaign," meant to culminate with the opening of the new museum wing in 2016.


6a00d8341c630a53ef0134859ab489970c-600wi SFMOMA chooses architect for its $250 million expansion: Norwegian firm Snohetta




--Jori Finkel

Image: Joseph Beuys, Untitled (Vitrine with Four Objects / Plateau Central), 1962-1983; mixed media in painted wood, steel, and glass vitrine; Collection SFMOMA, fractional and promised gift of Norah and Norman Stone; © 2011 © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, Germany.

This contemporary art really is laughable

August 14, 2010 |  8:30 am

Mika Rottenberg, "Squeeze," 2010; Courtesy Mary Boone Gallery/Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery; © Mika RottenbergEver since Marcel Duchamp put a urinal on a pedestal and signed it with a pseudonym in 1917, artists have been poking fun at the pretensions of the art world. But within the hallowed halls of museums and galleries, you’re more likely to hear stifled chuckles than loud guffaws. 

“The act of laughing is considered kind of a low-class, working-class activity — a form of entertainment — and you know, it’s not something you do in art museums,” says Sheri Klein, author of the book “Art and Laughter.” Because of this association, she says, the role of humor in art is “terribly misunderstood.”

Yet perhaps things are changing. Absurdities of all stripes feature prominently in a number of summer shows by “serious” artists, including John Baldessari’s Los Angeles County Museum of Art retrospective and Mika Rottenberg’s solo exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Is there perhaps a way to talk about humor and art that doesn’t reduce the work to superficial entertainment? 

Read more in my Sunday Arts & Books feature.

— Sharon Mizota

Photo: Mika Rottenberg's  "Mary Boone with Cube" (2010)

Credit: Mike Rottenberg

SFMOMA chooses architect for $250-million expansion: Norwegian firm Snøhetta

July 21, 2010 |  9:17 pm

SFMOMA_Snohetta_03_Norwegian_National Opera
Can an art museum in this economic climate raise $480 million for an ambitious expansion and endowment campaign without a world famous architect like Frank Gehry or Renzo Piano attached to the project?

SFMOMA has just placed a very big bet that it can, by selecting the critically acclaimed but not so commonly known Oslo-based firm Snøhetta — named after a mountain in Norway — as the architect for its large-scale renovation and expansion. The museum’s board of trustees approved the selection on Wednesday; an official announcement is expected Thursday.

The decision was not a complete surprise, as SFMOMA named Snøhetta in a shortlist released in May of four firms officially under consideration, which also included Adjaye Associates, Diller Scofidio + Renfro and, most established of all, Foster + Partners. But, as SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra admits, Snøhetta is “not terribly well known in our country, and especially not in the West.”

Though Snøhetta has other buildings in development in the U.S., including the National September 11th Memorial Museum entry pavilion at the World Trade Center site in New York, SFMOMA promises to be the firm’s first building on the West Coast.

Reached by phone Wednesday evening, Benezra said a visit made by several trustees to Oslo, part of a grand tour this summer to meet the four finalists and see some of their realized buildings, played a decisive role.

He said the museum’s selection committee was bowled over by Snøhetta's Norwegian National Opera and Ballet in Oslo (pictured above), as was he. “When I saw it for the first time, it reminded me of Bilbao — it has that kind of impact,” Benezra said.

“Not only is it a fantastic concept, but it’s also a model of engagement, with people walking inside and outside and on top of the building. And that is what we need: a building of great imagination and excitement that works on a practical level in a specific urban context.”

He also praised the collaborative nature of the firm, which was founded in 1989 after Craig Dykers and Kjetil Thorsen, among other architects, teamed up to enter a competition for the Egyptian Library of Alexandria. They went on to win the contest, build the library and establish a new firm. (The firm has since won the Aga Khan and the Mies van der Rohe awards for architecture, and twice received the World Architecture Award for best cultural building — for its library in Alexandria and for its National Opera and Ballet in Oslo.)

Why didn't SFMOMA go the competition route, inviting leading architects to submit proposals? “I think we said to one another: We’re not selecting a design, we’re selecting a designer,” Benezra said.

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