Friday, August 28, 2009


Image via 20X200-more on this later!

I am a museumgoer. And yes, that is an actual word: Museumgoer. All mashed into in one and defined as one who goes to museums. While a number of people I know are “museumgoers,” a hearty number of them do not venture into museums in their own city. It seems we reserve our cultural adventures for vacations. Sigh.

Insert true confession: Not only am I a museumgoer, I am a museum professional.

I grew up visiting museums and galleries. The famed contemporary art leader The Walker, is still one of my favorite destinations and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is an incredible source of inspiration. Who does not love The Art Institute of Chicago, MoMA, The Met, the Louvre? I make it a point to plan my travel experiences around cultural destinations and great food. Why don’t we do that at home? It’s an easy sell to get your friends gathered at new restaurant, but why is it such a tough pitch in San Diego to meet for a gallery opening or to see a new exhibition?

I challenge you to look at our fine city in a new way. Consider visiting The San Diego Museum of Art (this is YOUR Museum) for a view of incredible works of art. You might be surprised at the collection’s diversity, at how frequently objects are rotated, and that so many incredible exhibitions presented at the Museum are exclusive West Coast venues (take that L.A.!). Don’t stop there either—try on these other fine gems in Balboa Park—the Timken (FREE all the time!), MoPA (photography), and the Mingei (“art of the people”).

Please do not wait until you are asked to chaperone the third grade class field trip or until your mom begs to see Monet. Visit today. Your Museum is a place for conversation, for inquiry, for inspiration. While you may be asked to check your bag, you will not be shushed. Enjoy it, experience it, and support it.

Blogging on the role of museumgoer is museum professional Sarah Beckman, Associate Director of Development at The San Diego Museum of Art.

Art Bite: This Weekend

Image from Mod Swap

Saturday Night

Art of Photography Show at the Lyceum Theatre

Photographer Steven Churchill is on deck again. He has been organizing “The Art of Photography Show” annually since 2004. This year’s exhibition begins with the Opening Reception Gala on Saturday, August 29 from 6-9. Be sure to attend the opening and nab your complimentary copy of the show’s 80-page catalog with a forward written by Charlotte Cotton, Curator and Head of the Photography Department at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).


Mod Swap in Little Italy

For those into post-war art and craft, the trio of collectors and sellers known as branch out of their normal online retail space and quarterly gallery shows to bring art, furniture and craft objects to the public – at a swap meet price. The open market “Mod Swap” returns for its sophomore outing on Sunday, August 30th from 10am to 1pm in the parking lot on the corner of Kettner and Kalmia (in Little Italy in front of Klassik and Jett). Bring an item to sell, or trade, or your wallet for “Eames Era” items up for grabs at low, low prices.

Next Thursday

Beyond the Borders International Contemporary Art Fair at the Grand Del Mar

San Diego’s first BTB ICAF will feature over 500 works of ‘investment grade art’ by both established and emerging artists for 3 days beginning next Thursday. This new art fair is yet another sign of San Diego’s growing art scene and is worth taking a chance on.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Photography Matters at the San Diego Museum of Art

In just 11 short days, our exhibition of Richard Avedon’s photographs, Portraits of Power, will be closing. It will be hard for me to say goodbye to those large format works exploring every part of the grey scale. Avedon gets his subjects to wear their hearts on their sleeves and I am definitely going to go for one last look at all the lines, creases, cracks, wrinkles, visible disappointments and palpable emotion expressed in his sitters’ faces before September 6. But I’m also going to make sure to view our other photography exhibition, Unerring Eye: Recent Gifts of Photography from Joseph and Elaine Monsen, which also closes on September 6. This show is in one of the most often overlooked spaces at the Museum-Gallery 6. On the first floor, behind the staircase, in between the restrooms and probably under your radar, Gallery 6 is devoted to displaying small exhibitions of photography from the permanent collection and local collections. Unerring Eye features work by Kenro Izu, Anne Hamilton, Joe Deal and other important modern and contemporary photographers.

Which brings me to one of my favorite contemporary photographers-Jason Evans. Usually a day does not pass by without me checking out The Daily Nice, Evans’ project that exists only in the non-space of the Internet at Evans loads a single photograph onto the website each day. None of the photographs are ever archived and exist for a mere 24-hour period before they are replaced by the successive image. Each post is a snapshot, an entry in Evans’ visual diary, rather than a ‘finished’ photograph. Make the site your homepage and bring a new photo into your life every day. Better yet, while you’re staring at Jason’s work, be reminded of photography at the San Diego Museum of Art. Be reminded that you have a space locally where important photography is always on view.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Portraiture and Great Art?

A post from John Marciari, Curator of European Art at the San Diego Museum of Art:

My post last week offered a few thoughts about the magic of the Giorgione portrait here in San Diego. On the heels of writing that, however, I read an article by Michael Archer that argued that Portrait art has never been more pointless. Archer's article is mainly about portraiture in contemporary art, but his view is so limited - if I were less diplomatic I might call it 'half baked and wholly objectionable' - that I can't help but return to the subject. One need only glance at the Giorgione or at the Marquis de Sofraga by Goya, another painting in San Diego that could hang in any museum anywhere in the world, to realize that there is a lot more to portraiture than Archer realizes with his interest in mere likeness and with "the figure in history."
Need one really know anything about Sofraga to be mesmerized by this picture?
Similarly, while knowledge of the back story of a figure's role in history can add to our appreciation of a photographic portrait by, say, Richard Avedon, is that knowledge really necessary to appreciate that work as great art? Our Avedon exhibition closes soon, on September 6th, but there is still time to have another look and to think not only about Avedon, but also about what makes great portraiture more generally.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Art Bite: Social Climbing and Three Decades of Contemporary Art

Welcome to Art Bite. Members of The Gallery and staff at The San Diego Museum of Art are dedicated to sharing with you select art happenings in the region. Curated by an eclectic mix of staff, artists and culture zealots, Art Bite provides you a fresh pick of the week.

Intros aside, let’s get to the juicy bits. There are two shows of contemporary art in San Diego County that deserve your attention right now: Social Climbing/Part I: on the Move, at Seminal Projects in Little Italy, and Quint: Three Decades of Contemporary Art at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido. Both exhibitions offer a wide range of media, concept and vision. Social Climbing features (mainly) emerging artists and Three Decades of Contemporary Art serves as a retrospective of established artists exhibited at Quint Contemporary Art in La Jolla.


Army of One (1984)


Digital C-print

24 x 29 inches

Edition 1 of 3

Untitled 4
29 x 25 inches, framed

Every Man a King But No One Wears a Crow
High intensity sheeting on aluminum
84 x 36 inches

Social Climbing demonstrates the breadth of media currently utilized in visual art, from new media interactives to sculptures made from materials like masking tape, filing cabinets and cardboard. Luis de Jesus, owner of Seminal Projects, has borrowed a page from Paula Cooper, who is known for rearranging the art on view in her NYC gallery during the run of an exhibition. Similarly, de Jesus will be switching around the art in Social Climbing on any given day.

August 8 - September 26, 2009

Gary Lang, Future Circles
1998, acrylic on canvas, unique, 113" diameter

Collection of Michael Krichman and Carmen Cuenca © Gary Lang
Photo courtesy of Quint Contemporary Art

Quint: Three Decades of Contemporary Art
provides a special opportunity to view outstanding examples of painting from private collections and museums from our region. Showcasing regional, national and international artists like Roman de Salvo, Jean Lowe, Mel Bochner, Ryan McGinness and Gary Lang, this is a rich survey of the work that gallery owner Mark Quint has cultivated for more than 30 years.

Ryan McGinness, The True Knowledge of Things, 2007.
acrylic on canvas, unique, 96&quotx96" Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego
© Ryan McGinness Studios, Inc.
Photo courtesy of Quint Contemporary Art

QUINT: Three Decades of Contemporary Art

California Center for the Arts, Escondido Museum
August 15 – December 31, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Avedon's Foray into Film

By Alexander Jarman, SDMA Manager of Public Programs

Richard Avedon made a long, important and successful career out of capturing fame through the medium of photography. The Museum’s current exhibition of Avedon’s work, Portraits of Power, presents this prolific career of chronicling important leaders, activists and politicians. The show is interesting in part because it explores images the artist was passionate about, but not as well known for- Avedon’s popularity was fueled by his work in fashion photography.

The artist’s own life and work was turned into celebrity through the 1957 release of Funny Face, a film starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire. Funny Face was both a Broadway play in 1927 and a film in 1957, but that is where most of the similarity ends. The two productions were radically different in terms of plot, though Fred Astaire did play the lead in both versions. His character for the film, Dick Avery, was based on-as you might have guessed by now- Richard Avedon. Paramount Pictures hired Avedon as a consultant for the film and he actually produced some of its still photography, including the now iconic image of Audrey Hepburn in the darkroom.

This Thursday, August 20th, the Museum will be screening Funny Face in its upstairs galleries. I invite you all to come to the Museum, view our Portraits of Power exhibition and see a classic film on fashion photography.

Thursday, August 20

Film Screening: Funny Face

7:00 p.m.

Hibben Gallery

Free after Museum Admission

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Giorgione, etc.

Another post from John Marciari, Curator of European Art at the Museum:

One of my favorite art blogs is Tyler Green's Modern Art Notes, and not merely because he said some nice things about SDMA a few months back. The blog's title is actually a bit of a misnomer because Green covers a lot more than the world of Modern Art. This morning, for example, he's written the first installment of what will be a series of posts discussing this mysterious maybe-by-Giorgione (or maybe-by-Titian, or maybe-started-by-Giorgione-and-maybe-finished-by-Titian) Portrait of a Man at the National Gallery of Art. I've never been satisfied with the whole Giorgione-Titian collaborative idea, so I'm happy to hear that it is apparently being reconsidered. I'm even more delighted that Tyler Green thinks that his readers will care about a connoisseurial problem like this.

The discussion of the NGA portrait is as good an excuse as any, though, to draw attention once again to the Portrait of a Man in San Diego. This isn't a large painting, and it hasn't always had the popular appeal of, say, the Sanchez-Cotan still life hanging in the next room, but to me, this subtle picture is without question the principal masterpiece in San Diego. Painted probably in 1506, it marks a watershed in the history of Italian portraiture. It shows exactly what the great writer Vasari meant when he identified Giorgione as the first "modern" painter: out with the old, hard linear style of Bellini and others, and in with the "living and natural." A few months ago, when leading some patrons through the gallery, I called the painting
San Diego's Mona Lisa
a label that I think does it justice. Everything that people have always thought special about the Mona Lisa - the enigmatic expression, the subtle modelling of forms, the sense of real air and atmosphere - is here too. Like all great portraits, the picture does far more than just record someone's appearance (which is just as well, because we don't know who the sitter is). Instead, despite its simplicity, the painting has real life: the more we look, the more the picture engages us, and the more it thus comes alive. Finally, Giorgione died young, and portraits by him for which there is no question about the attribution are as rare as hen's teeth. This is a painting that could hang in any museum anywhere in the world, but here it is in San Diego.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Picasso Miró Calder: What, Why, and How?

SDMA's newest exhibition—Picasso Miró Calder—opens this weekend. Here’s the inside story, from John Marciari, Curator of European Art at the Museum, who is responsible for the show…

What? A three-room exhibition, with a room devoted to the work of each artist, and with a few key objects by their Parisian contemporaries thrown in. We’ve set out a broad range of works including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, and ceramics. A few things will be familiar, but most will be new to our audience, either because they are recent gifts (including a major Picasso painting, Seated Woman, a promised gift which you'll have to come see in person!), loans from private collections, or works on paper that do not stay on view because they’re so sensitive to light.

In short, the exhibition offers the great opportunity to see a big group of works by these major artists. When the show closes in December, most will go back into dark storage or back to their owners.

Why? The idea started when we signed on to get the Calder Jewelry exhibition. The jewelry is fascinating, and the show is great on its own, but we also thought that many people would wonder how it connected up with Calder’s better known work such as the large Spinal Column sculpture that we’ve just reinstalled on the front steps, or the Beastly Beestinger mobile that is in the new exhibition. So we started with the idea of a complementary Calder exhibition to put the jewelry in context. We then expanded the idea to include Miró, partly because the Calder, Miró exhibition held at The Phillips Collection a few years back was so enlightening. Then, right around the time that planning began, we received a few major gifts: a Miró painting, a late Picasso drawing, and the Picasso painting mentioned above. Given the overlapping stories of Picasso, Miró, and Calder in Paris in the first half of the 20th century, it seemed natural to expand the show to include all three.

How? There is a lot in the show, roughly 40 works by the three artists and a few by their contemporaries, but this is still merely a selection from our broader holdings. We began by picking the most important works from our permanent collection and then by talking to some of our trustees and supporters, who offered a few key loans. The selection then evolved so that the show would tell some stories. Picasso, for example, returned throughout his career to the theme of the artist and his models/muses/lovers (the most important women in his life tended to be all three). The Seated Woman, for example, is a portrait of Françoise Gilot, who had given birth to Paloma Picasso only a few months earlier. Building on this, I was inclined to include a few extra prints that developed that artist-muse theme, which is also the subject of one of our Picasso drawings; there is also a self-portrait drawing by Gilot hanging nearby. This, however, is just one of several overlapping narratives. Rather than give everything away here, though, I’ll leave the works to tell their own stories. Come visit.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Get to Know The Gallery

The San Diego Museum of Art is thrilled to present The Gallery-the Museum's new group for adventures in art and culture. Members of The Gallery enjoy an insider’s view of the Museum’s collection and area art happenings.

Through compelling social, educational and philanthropic events, The Gallery provides young art enthusiasts direct access to curators, collectors and artists. Engaged in local, national, and international art affairs The Gallery is a dynamic cultural community investing in the future of The San Diego Museum of Art.

For more information on the upcoming Gallery Launch Party on September 10, please contact: