Get ready for a hot art summer at SFMOMA's fresh exhibits
(Olafur Eliasson, 'One-way colour tunnel,' 2007, detail; gift of Helen and Charles Schwab through The Art Supporting Foundation; © Olafur Eliasson; photo: Ian Reeves)

Get ready for a hot art summer at SFMOMA's fresh exhibits


"Can't stop, won't stop," said Art to us during the Covid-19 pandemic.

During those many dark months, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art continued to help paint the town with vibrant shades of creativity through its numerous virtual exhibitions and interactive projects that kept us entertained and inspired—we especially loved the installation Close to Home: Creativity in Crisis, a series of murals by seven Bay Area artists in response to the social upheaval of the times, which remans on view through September 5th, 2021.

But as California officially reopens, it's time for life to mimic art—which is to say, it's time for us all to get out there and to discover new perspectives—IRL! SFMOMA is once again open to art lovers and the summer's exhibition lineup is bright.

Here are five things to see at SFMOMA now.

'Nam June Paik' is the first American solo retrospective of the Korean-American artist. (Nam June Paik, 'Sistine Chapel', 1993/2021, installation view, SFMOMA. Courtesy the Estate of Nam June Paik; © Estate of Nam June Paik; photo: Andria Lo )

Nam June Paik

More than 200 works comprise the first-ever comprehensive retrospective on American soil for the Seoul-born experimental artist Nam June Paik, who is called the "father of video art." Think you don't know him? Well, if you've heard of the "electronic superhighway," you do, in a way. Paik used the term to predict the internet age way back in 1974, and his multidisciplinary works that meld art, music, and technology—created over a five-decade career—must have felt as radical at their inception as they feel relevant today. A dialogue between Eastern and Western philosophies and traditions also weaves its way throughout the exhibition. Keep your eyes peeled for iconic artworks including TV Buddha(1974), in which an 18th Century wooden Buddha appears to watch himself on a modern television; TV Garden (1974–77/2002), an immersive installation featuring dozens of TV sets amid a lush, futuristic landscape where technology integrates with the natural world; and Sistine Chapel (1993/2021)—this colorful installation that combines sound and images from dozens of projectors won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Biennale in 1993. //Through October 3, 2021,

Cauleen Smith, Sojourner (2018); collection SFMOMA. (Courtesy of the Artist)

Future Histories: Theaster Gates and Cauleen Smith

Reimagining the look and roles of women and the evolution of feminism is at the heart of Future Histories, a dynamic tandem exhibition of two living artists: Chicago's social practice installation artist Theaster Gates and California Institute of the Arts teacher, filmmaker, and multimedia artist Cauleen Smith. Gates explores the idea of the Black Madonna through archival images from Ebony and Jet magazines. Smith takes phrases by jazz musician Alice Coltrane to different sites associated with community and spiritual or artistic vision. //Through July 18, 2021,

(Susan O'Malley, 'Advice from My 80-Year-Old Self,' 2015 (installation view); collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase; © Estate of Susan O'Malley; photo: Katherine Du Tiel)

One Day at a Time: Susan O'Malley and Leah Rosenberg

Young San Francisco art lovers know Leah Rosenberg, if not for her colorful local installations at the likes of Pinhole Coffee then at least for her eye-popping work as creative director for the heralded Color Factory. Less known, no doubt, is Rosenberg's long-time friendship with Susan O'Malley (1976–2015), a CCA alum and author of the 2016 book Advice from My 80 Year-Old Self. The sometime collaborators are exhibited together in One Day at a Time, a vibrant installation of drawings and prints in which the two women explore art's power of bringing positivity into people's lives. The exhibition also features new gifts from O'Malley's friends and family. // Through January 2, 2022,

(Olafur Eliasson, 'One-way colour tunnel,' 2007, detail; gift of Helen and Charles Schwab through The Art Supporting Foundation; © Olafur Eliasson; photo: Ian Reeves)

Contemporary Optics. Olafur Eliasson, Teresita Fernández, and Anish Kapoor

The language of color theory developed by Op Art painters of the 1960s serves as the basis for four sculptures by three acclaimed international artists on view now at SFMOMA: Olafur Eliasson, Teresita Fernández, and Anish Kapoor. Culled from the museum's collection, the installation sparks curiosity and wonder by evoking natural and cosmological spectacles such as a rainbow, a glacial ice cave, and a black hole. And TBH, the exhibit makes for a killer Instagram op (wink). //Through March 27, 2022,

Diego Rivera, 'The Marriage of the Artistic Expression of the North and of the South on This Continent,' also known as Pan American Unity, 1940; courtesy City College of San Francisco; © Banco de México Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico City / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.(Image: Cultural Heritage Imaging)

Pan American Unity: A Mural by Diego Rivera

Looking for a wow moment? As of this summer, one of Diego Rivera's most famous murals will occupy an entire floor at SFMOMA. The Mexican artist originally painted the 22-by-74-foot work titled The Marriage of the Artistic Expression of the North and of the South on This Continent (more commonly known as Pan American Unity) for the 1940 Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island. It was his last mural painted in the United States. Now, the 60,000-pound-plus piece painted on 10 cement panels returns to the spotlight to tell stories about the past, present, and future of cultural solidarity and exchange during a time of global conflict in North America. The fresco also includes scenes of the Bay Area and pays tribute to the creative spirit of artists, artisans, architects, and inventors. //Summer 2021–2023,

—Anna Volpicelli

// San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 151 Third St. (SoMa); advance tickets are required;

Related Articles
Most Popular
From Our Partners