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Hollein Lays Plans for Next Chapter at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Max Hollein, Director and CEO, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Max Hollein, Director and CEO, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

A Look to 2017

SAN FRANCISCO—Perhaps the most newsworthy event for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in 2016 was the midyear appointment of Director and CEO Max Hollein, who came to San Francisco after 15 years in Frankfurt, where he led the Schirn Kunsthalle, the Städel Museum, and the Liebieghaus Sculpture Collection. After six months at the museums, Hollein has made great strides in building an exciting program for 2017 and beyond. 

“With significant efforts that went into improving operations and invigorating programming, we are looking toward a bright future for the Fine Arts Museums in 2017,” says Hollein. “In fact, the upcoming year will likely feature one our most powerful, attractive, and challenging programs to date, with a renewed focus on scholarship and original exhibitions by our own curators, a fresh contemporary perspective, and clear distinctions in the programming between the de Young and Legion of Honor. The Fine Arts Museums will be pumping with energy and creativity. We will launch new initiatives to inform and engage our audiences long before and after their visits, including free digital narratives and guides available prior to exhibition openings, “artist’s playground” projects around the de Young, and elevated discussions around our permanent collection, along with excellent contemporary programming. With upcoming exhibitions on Claude Monet, the Summer of Love, Edgar Degas, Stuart Davis, Gustav Klimt, the pyramids of Teotihuacan, Gottfried Lindauer’s Māori portraits, and polychromy in antique sculpture, plus major interventions by Urs Fischer and Sarah Lucas at the Legion of Honor and a reinstallation of the Legion’s Rodin galleries, it is sure to be a singularly exciting and intense year.” 

The staff of the Fine Arts Museums has embarked on a major programming initiative, establishing a long-range exhibition, education, and outreach program for 2017 and onward. In addition to focusing on 19th-century programming, the Legion of Honor will build on its collection and reputation in the art of the previous centuries to become a prime venue for significant old master projects—upcoming exhibitions developed by the Legion of Honor include large, thematic surveys on the Pre-Raphaelites and their sources of inspiration (Raphael, Botticelli, Titian, Fra Angelico, Jan van Eyck) and Peter Paul Rubens. The de Young will deepen its commitment to creating challenging exhibitions that portray art in a broader cultural context, thereby nurturing aesthetic experiences, intellectual conversations, and even controversy. For example, an exhibition on American Precisionism and the Machine Age of the 1920s will draw parallels to the current technology takeover, while a presentation on the fashion of Islam will investigate Muslim style as a rising segment of the fashion industry. The upcoming exhibition Summer of Love: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll is another example of multicultural, cross-media programming at the de Young, examining and celebrating the colorful counterculture of the 1967 phenomenon that originated mere yards from the museum. The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco also will draw on the internal strength of its curatorial team to create exhibitions that add to the scholarly discourse, and will advance its dedication to contemporary art and programming through major site-specific projects, artist interventions in the collection galleries, and a performance program embracing the two different venues and their unique architectural arrangements.

Upcoming 2017 Exhibitions at the Legion of Honor

• Opening on January 28, Auguste Rodin: The Centenary Installation will kick off a year of programming with a reinstallation of the museum’s unparalled collection of works by Auguste Rodin. Marking the centenary of the artist’s passing, this presentation of 50 objects in bronze, marble, and plaster will examine his celebrated life and influential work. To complement the exhibition, the museums will publish the first scholarly catalogue of the museum’s 90-plus Rodins.

Monet: The Early Years will open in late February. This will be the first major United States exhibition devoted to the initial phase of Claude Monet’s career. Through approximately 60 paintings, the exhibition demonstrates the radical invention that marked the artist’s development. With a selection of works gathered from the most important international collections worldwide,  the exhibition will authoritatively demonstrate the artist’s early command of many genres, not only the landscapes for which he has become so renowned. Monet: The Late Years will follow in 2019.

• In April, internationally recognized artist Urs Fischer will unveil new and existing works exhibited in dialogue with Rodin’s sculptures, highlighting a shared interest in the melodrama of mortality. From the outset of his career, Fischer has mined the extremes of his materials to introduce the dimension of time. Whether constructing entire sculptures with perishable items, having skeletons perform absurdist tasks, or creating life-size wax candle casts that burn, ooze, and melt away, he always recalls the transience of existence.

Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade will be the first exhibition to examine the height of the millinery trade in Paris, from around 1875 to 1914, as reflected in the work of the Impressionists. Opening June 24 at the Legion of Honor, this groundbreaking exhibition presents an important portion of Edgar Degas’s work in its extraordinary artistic, social, and historical context. Featuring 60 impressionist paintings and pastels, the exhibition will include key works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Édouard Manet, Mary Cassatt, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec along with 40 exquisite examples of period hats.

• In June, leading British contemporary artist Sarah Lucas will come to the Legion of Honor to conceive installations in dialogue with another aspect of Rodin’s work: its palpable eroticism. Lucas’s works often invoke the partial body—in particular sexual organs and acts. Her recent sculptures display an easy confidence that confronts Rodin’s idealizing male gaze with a down-to-earth female perspective on physical pleasure.

• In mid-October, a special presentation in the Rodin galleries will create a unique dialogue between the masterpieces of Gustav Klimt and the Legion of Honor’s seminal Rodin collection. The first Klimt exhibition of this size to be presented on the West Coast, this is an extraordinary opportunity for Bay Area audiences to view the work of this great fin-de-siècle Austrian master of Modernism.

• The final exhibition of the year will open on October 28: Gods in Color: Polychromy in the Ancient World will offer an astonishing look at classical sculptures swathed in their original vibrant colors, rectifying the perception of an all-white “classical” antique. Ancient sculptures and architectures will be revealed as intended—garishly colorful, richly ornamented, and full of life—against the backdrop of the Legion of Honor’s neoclassical building.

Upcoming 2017 Exhibitions at the de Young

• On April 1, the de Young will open the vibrant Stuart Davis: In Full Swing, which comes to San Francisco from the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York by way of Washington, DC’s National Gallery of Art. The first major exhibition in 20 years dedicated to Davis, the presentation will reveal the artist’s unique ability to assimilate the imagery of popular culture, the aesthetics of advertising, and the rhythms of jazz into colorful works that hum with infectious energy.

• Almost simultaneously, the de Young will present Summer of Love: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll, an exhilarating showcase of the art, culture, spirit, and impact of the time, including iconic rock posters, photographs, interactive music and light shows, costumes and textiles, ephemera, and avant-garde films (opening on April 8). A 50th anniversary celebration of the adventurous and colorful counterculture that blossomed in the years surrounding the legendary summer of 1967 in San Francisco, the exhibition will present more than 300 significant cultural artifacts of the time, including almost 150 objects from the Fine Arts Museums’ extensive permanent holdings, supplemented by key, iconic loans.

• In September, a look at historic portraits by Gottfried Lindauer opens in The Māori Portraits: Gottfried Lindauer’s New Zealand. Featuring 36 historic portraits of Māori rangatira (men and women of standing and chiefs), the exhibition will bring together finely detailed oil portraits from the collections of the Auckland Art Gallery and the Auckland Museum in New Zealand. These powerful images of warriors, politicians, and elders are revered embodiments of the individuals who served their communities and the emerging country of New Zealand in the mid 19th century, a time of great political and social upheaval.

• The de Young will close 2017 with an original presentation: Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire. The exhibition will examine the recent archeologically and culturally important discoveries from the three main pyramids at the site of Teotihuacan, Mexico. With major loans from Mexico City’s Museo Nacional de Antropología and the Zona de Monumentos Arqueológicos de Teotihuacan, the exhibition offers Bay Area audiences the rare chance to experience this monumental piece of Central American history and builds on the long history of the de Young’s numerous collaborative exhibitions, loans, and conservation projects with peer institutions in Mexico City.

In 2017, the museums will also expand community programming, hosting four free, family-friendly, public events: For the Love of Art, a celebration linked to Valentine’s Day, on Saturday, February 11; StART SmART, a springtime festival timed to the last week of the school year; artist-designed playgrounds in the summer; and a Halloween party at the Legion of Honor on October 29, harkening to the museum’s fabled “supernatural” reputation.

Educational programming will also expand beyond the walls of the museum. Coinciding with the opening of Monet: The Early Years, the Fine Arts Museums will launch a program of free digital guides to help visitors build familiarity with each major exhibition’s historical context, artistic influences, materials, and techniques, and to challenge visitors to explore the works on view more deeply. In addition, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco will launch a significant website refresh and revamp of the existing

Upcoming 2018 Exhibitions (selection; dates tentative)

Casanova: The Seduction of Europe | Legion of Honor
February 10–May 20, 2018

America in Focus: Precisionism in the Machine Age | de Young
March 17–August 12, 2018

Surrealism and “the Other” | de Young
May 12–October 21, 2018

Mastering the Masters: Pre-Raphaelite Sources of Inspiration | Legion of Honor
June 30 – September 30, 2018

Fashion of Islam | de Young
September 22, 2018–January 13, 2019

de Young | Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco.
Open 9:30 a.m.– 5:15 p.m. Tuesdays–Sundays. Open select holidays; closed most Mondays.

Legion of Honor | Lincoln Park, 100 34th Avenue, San Francisco.
Open 9:30 a.m.– 5:15 p.m. Tuesdays–Sundays. Open select holidays; closed most Mondays.

About the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, comprising the de Young in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, are the largest public arts institution in San Francisco.

The de Young originated from the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition in Golden Gate Park and was established as the Memorial Museum in 1895. It was later renamed in honor of Michael H. de Young, who spearheaded its creation. The present copper-clad landmark building, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, opened in October 2005. It holds the institution’s significant collections of American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from the 17th to the 21st centuries; art from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas; costume and textile arts; and international modern and contemporary art.

The Legion of Honor was inspired by the French pavilion at San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915 and, like that structure, was modeled after the neoclassical Palais de la Légion d’Honneur in Paris. The museum, designed by George Applegarth, opened in 1924 on a bluff in Lincoln Park overlooking the Golden Gate. Its holdings span 4,000 years and include European paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts; ancient art from the Mediterranean basin; and the largest collection of works on paper in the American West.

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