SFMOMA celebrates 75 years with focus

Anniversaries come and go, but there are some that you simply want to linger for a while.

That’s certainly the case with the 75th anniversary of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. This year, The City’s venerable art portal celebrates its major milestone with so many events that it may, at first glance, seem overwhelming to know where to dive in.

Most spectators may relish the free weekend celebration unfolding in all its glory Saturday through Monday.

Beyond that, other jewels shine bright, particularly the “Focus on Artists” exhibition, which celebrates the museum’s strong ties with modern and contemporary artists.

“The show is quite visceral, quite visible,” says Gary Garrels, Elise S. Haas senior curator of painting and sculpture. Garrels was curator at SFMOMA from 1993 to 2000. He says one of the main reasons he returned was because the anniversary show offered such a unique opportunity to showcase so many works together in the same place.

“Focus on Artists” is quite a bold undertaking. It looks at 18 artists who helped define a number of significant artistic movements, from abstract expressionism to postminimalism.

One section, launched in October, spotlights eight American artists whose creativity had a huge impact on the evolution of abstract art here in America: Richard Diebenkorn, Philip Guston, Ellsworth Kelly, Brice Marden, Robert Ryman, Richard Serra, Frank Stella and Clyfford Still.

International titans make up the second part of the exhibit, which opens this weekend, and here, the often soul-stirring works of Diane Arbus, Matthew Barney, Robert Gober, Dan Graham, Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, Doris Salcedo, Kara Walker, Jeff Wall and Andy Warhol are spotlighted.

Garrels points out that all these works signify the major shift in the art being offered after the 1960s to more social and psychological themes.

About 100 paintings, sculptures and photographs (from 1944 to 2006) make up this breathtaking exhibit and each artist has their own “gallery.”

“The two halves of the [Focus on Artists] show will have their own internal argument that will, I hope, be clear and relevant to people,” Garrels adds. “I think it’s been a revelation for everybody here to see what depths we have to see all these works together and to realize, ‘You know, this really is a world-class museum.’”

IF YOU GO
Focus on Artists

Where: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 151 Third St., San Francisco
When: Show runs Saturday through May 23; hours are 11 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. daily, except until 8:45 p.m. Thursdays and closed
Wednesdays
Tickets: $15 general, $9 seniors and students, free for children 12 and under and first Tuesday of each month
Contact: (415) 357-4000, www.sfmoma.org

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