Even as artists and galleries must bear the ever-increasing weight of the Bay Area’s crippling market for habitable space, one corner of art real estate in the region continues to provide sturdy shelter. That is the museum sector with, depending on how you count, at least a dozen credible institutions offering robust programs.
The new year brims with opportunity. Here are the most exciting announcements to cross my desk, thus far, for 2020.
Asian Art Museum
The most exciting event next year is sure to be the opening, projected for late spring, of the new Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang Pavilion at the Asian Art Museum. It will add 28,000 square feet of new space, including the largest single gallery in San Francisco, an 8,500-square-foot room. The debut of the new pavilion will feature an installation by teamLab, the wildly popular Japanese collaborative behind what is reportedly now the number one tourist destination in Tokyo.
An expansive rooftop “art terrace” for contemporary sculpture and live performances will also be unveiled. The $38 million project also includes renovation of the existing 31 galleries, and renewed education classrooms and other spaces; an additional $65 million was raised for programs and to strengthen the museum’s endowment.
The new exhibition space fills a need that has existed since the Asian moved from Golden Gate Park to the Civic Center in 2003. As the San Francisco Public Library building was being re-purposed for the museum, budget constraints caused postponement of a major gallery and auditorium. The new pavilion and terrace are being constructed on that foundation.
de Young Museum
“Uncanny valley,” a 50-year-old term coined by a Japanese roboticist, is an attempt to describe the uneasy feeling stirred in the human psyche by robots and virtual beings that seem a bit too “real,” which is to say, too much like us.
As starting point for her first major group exhibition for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, contemporary art curator Claudia Schmuckli relates the concept to another valley, close by, named for the silicon-based industry that made it rich.
“Uncanny Valley: Being Human in the Age of AI” will be on view at the de Young for an eight-month run beginning Feb. 22. Billed by the museum as “the first major exhibition in the U.S. to explore the relationship between humans and intelligent machines through an artistic lens,” the show will include new and existing projects by 13 artists and collaborations known for their work in that arena.
Also at the de Young — and also organized by the energetic Schmuckli — “Judy Chicago: A Retrospective” will look at the work of the 1970s feminist art pioneer who conceived the iconic work of the period, “The Dinner Party.” That entire installation, which occupies more than twice the space of the average American house, will be represented only by related objects. But the show, on view May 9 through Sept. 6, will include about 150 paintings, drawings, sculptures, prints and documents of performance-based works spanning a career of more than 40 years.
UC Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive
When UC Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive presents “Ron Nagle: Handsome Drifter” Jan. 15 through June 14, it will be the artist’s first major exhibition in the Bay Area in nearly 30 years.
The remarkable thing about that statement is that Nagle, who turns 81 next year, is among America’s most revered sculptors in his chosen medium. Even more striking: few of his works stand much taller or take up more shelf space than a few inches.
Yet Nagle’s intimate, precisely crafted ceramic objects, in colors and textures that range from the ethereal to the fleshly, have brought him to the attention of museums throughout the world, influencing countless artists working in all media.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
SFMOMA’s schedule in 2020 is chock-full of substantial fare, none of which one would want to miss.
“Diego Rivera’s America” (Oct. 24-Jan. 31, 2021) will comprise some 160 works, from prints and drawings to paintings on canvas to “portable” (if barely) fresco paintings on plaster. Among the latter is the largest work by the artist in existence, a 74-foot long, 22-foot high mural created by Rivera and his team in view of the public as part of a special program of the Golden Gate International Exposition, held on San Francisco’s Treasure Island.
Made in 10 panels mounted on steel frames, “The Marriage of the Artistic Expression of the North and of the South on this Continent” was completed in 1940, some months after the formal end of the exposition. It was designed to be moved to what is now City College of San Francisco and expanded to triple its size, but the additional work was interrupted by World War II and never completed. It was unveiled at CCSF in 1961.
The massive object will be moved for the first time since then, to be installed in SFMOMA’s street-level Roberts Family Gallery on Howard St.
Also much anticipated is “Dawoud Bey: An American Project,” the first, full-scale retrospective of photographs by the MacArthur Fellow.
Scheduled for Feb. 15 through May 25, the exhibition will present Bey’s disparate series of works, from street photography in a more-or-less conventional documentary style that brought him to attention in the 1970s to dark landscapes that are more evocative than descriptive of the African American history they record.
“David Park: A Retrospective,” to be held April 11 through Sept. 7, will present approximately 125 paintings and works on paper by the artist who may have been destined to be the best of all those involved in development of the Bay Area Figurative style.
Sadly, Park died in 1960 at the age of 49, but he left behind an impassioned body of art that depicted the quotidian (a jazz band in rehearsal, kids on bikes, bathers at the beach) in harsh, even violent color, often mounting mask-like heads on hulking forms.
Crocker Art Museum
Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum has reliably chronicled the history of Northern California art for many years, and there is no more iconic a representative of the region than longtime Sacramento resident Wayne Thiebaud. What museum, then, is a more likely home for an exhibition celebrating the region’s most celebrated living artist’s 100th birthday, which takes place next year on Nov. 15?
From the bakery-counter landscapes that brought him early fame, to vertiginous street scenes that both drew upon and extended the myth of San Francisco, to loving depictions of the delta region where he lives, to pictures of family and clowns that are both earthbound portraits and eternal metaphors, Thiebaud has been contemporary for much of his 100 years.
“Wayne Thiebaud 100: Paintings, Prints, and Drawings” will be displayed at the Crocker from Oct, 11 to Jan. 3 before setting off on a tour to several U.S. museums.