With the opening in May of the remodeled San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and its new Pritzker Center for Photography, the museum tripled the space allotted for photography, giving it the largest dedicated photo department in a U.S. art museum. “Because we have featured photography for a very long time, and have collectors who are deeply committed to photography, I think [the museum administrators] felt that this was one way of really distinguishing the museum—by featuring our outlook on contemporary art that sees photography as a very essential component of art,” said longtime photography curator Sandra S. Phillips in an interview with PDN.
The Pritzker Center for Photography, on the third floor of the museum’s Snøhetta-designed expansion, comprises four areas: a study center; the “Photography Interpretive Gallery,” or PIG, with interactive screens that allow visitors to do things such as learn how to make a photogram or watch any of the hundreds of artist interviews SFMOMA has recorded; the enhanced permanent collection galleries; and the new special exhibition galleries.
The inaugural show in the enhanced permanent collection space is “California and the West,” named after the celebrated Edward Weston book. The show features 200 gifts and promised gifts acquired in the museum’s Campaign for Art, its 2009–2015 effort to “deepen and expand” its permanent collection. The chronologically arranged show, which includes diverse photographic genres, focuses on the West’s natural landscape and on the changes brought upon the land by development, urban expansion and industrialization.
The special exhibition gallery opened with “About Time: Photography in a Moment of Change,” which explores the ways in which “the medium’s complex and ever-changing relationship with time has shaped our ideas about permanence and obsolescence, history and memory.” It spans the entire history of the medium, and incorporates formats that photography encompasses: slide projections, video installations and light boxes. “About Time” features legends such as Julia Margaret Cameron and Henri Cartier-Bresson, and contemporary artists, including Owen Kydd, Jason Lazarus and Zoe Leonard. —Larissa Archer