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As part of the SECA Art Award exhibition dedicated to Bay Area artists

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) recently announced a series of initiatives developed to increase access to its art installations and provide new amenities for its community. The museum will offer free admission from December 17, 2022 through May 29, 2023 as part of the SECA Art Award exhibition dedicated to Bay Area artists. Since 1967, SFMOMA’s Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art (SECA) has recognized SECA Art Award recipients with an exhibition at SFMOMA and inclusion in an accompanying publication. Each artist featured in the upcoming exhibition will have a dedicated gallery to present new works, inviting audiences to immerse themselves in each artist’s practice. By providing free access to these gallery spaces, the museum offers audiences the opportunity to engage with the work of the five 2022 SECA Art Award winners—Binta Ayofemi, Maria Guzmán Capron, Cathy Lu, Marcel Pardo Ariza and Gregory Rick—as well as with a wide selection of major works from the museum’s collection on view throughout the museum’s second floor, including works by acclaimed artists Ruth Asawa, David Huffman, Henri Matisse, Ana Mendieta, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko, Wayne Thiebaud and Mickalene Thomas.

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Gregory Rick, “Trap,” 2022. Photo courtesy of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Glen Cheriton, Impart Photography.

Recognizing some of the ongoing challenges wrought by the pandemic, SFMOMA made this decision to expand access through 62,000 square feet of free-to-see space installed with inspiring works by both local and international artists.

In addition to this move, SFMOMA will unveil artist Wu Tsang’s immersive video and sound installation “Of Whales” (2022) in the museum’s Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Atrium, which will also be free to the public. This recently acquired work was included in the 59th Venice Biennale and is part of Tsang’s multidisciplinary project inspired by Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” “Of Whale” is a surreal exploration of Melville’s world through the perspective of the whale, incorporating psychedelic extended reality (XR-generated) oceanscapes, and offers a postcolonial and environmental reading of the literary classic.

SFMOMA will also present new works on the exterior of the museum starting this winter. Bay Area-based illustrator Jocelyn Tsaih has been invited to re-imagine the visual experience of SFMOMA’s Third Street and Howard Street entrances, enlivening the museum’s doorways with vibrant, whimsical imagery. The Howard Street corridor (between Howard and Natoma Streets) will also be installed with large-scale works infused with inspirational messages created by the late, beloved, San Francisco artist Susan O’Malley. Additionally, Oakland-based risograph printing and publishing house, Floss Editions (run by Meg Fransee and Aaron Gonzalez), will install playful new graphics at Steps Coffee on the museum’s second floor.

Lastly, SFMOMA will celebrate the public opening of a new ground floor restaurant this winter, offering visitors a lively communal environment, brasserie menu and newly created bar. The new restaurant will include indoor and outdoor seating to establish connections with both the neighborhood and the activities inside the museum. To mark the US debut of “Of Whales,” SFMOMA will develop a specialty cocktail with Tsang that will be available at the restaurant bar.

SFMOMA Director Christopher Bedford shared the strategy behind these access initiatives in a press release: “The interwoven initiatives launching this winter are guided by our desire to enhance the sense of welcome and hospitality at the museum. As we all continue to emerge from the pandemic and subsequent recovery, SFMOMA is committed to fostering community connection and engagement within our walls and in our neighborhood. By increasing access to extraordinary works of art, by bringing art experiences out onto the street and by providing amenities like casual dining, we are working to reinvigorate our neighborhood and make the museum an active and inviting hub for the community. These principles will continue to drive our work into the future.”

In addition to the newly free-to-see second-floor galleries, SFMOMA already offers nearly 45,000 square feet of free, art-filled public space. This currently includes access to Diego Rivera’s “Pan American Unity” mural in the Roberts Family Gallery, Julie Mehretu’s diptych “HOWL, eon (I, II)”, the Koret Education Center’s featured community residency with Acción Latina and Steps Coffee, SFMOMA’s new café located right off the Roman Steps in Schwab Hall.

Starting December 17, visitors will be able to visit the newly free-to-see galleries and see exhibitions including “Open Ended Painting and Sculpture, 1900 to Now,” a perennial favorite featuring works from SFMOMA’s permanent collection, and “Joan Brown + Friends,” a companion show to SFMOMA’s major Joan Brown retrospective. Featuring an interconnected network of artists working in the Bay Area from around the 1950s to the 1980s, the works included in the presentation reflect many of the currents and conversations driving the enigmatic practices of Bay Area artists during this period.


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