museum of many firsts. In 1935, it opened as the first museum on the West Coast
to showcase solely 20th-century art; in 1983, SFMOMA was crowned as the first
West Coast museum to formally establish a department of architecture and
design; and this week, as FOG Design+Art is inaugurated as San Francisco’s
premier modernism fair, SFMOMA was, of course, involved. As proceeds from the
fair will benefit the museum, we spoke to Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher of SFMOMA’s
Architecture and Design department about the museum’s collection, their requirements
for new acquisitions, and why California Design—recently shown in LACMA’s
“California design, 1930–1965: ‘Living in a Modern Way’” and Pasadena Museum of
California Art’s “Greta Magnusson Grossman: A Car and Some Shorts”—has become a
buzzword we’re happy to embrace.
Artsy: Can you describe a few
highlights of SFMOMA’s architecture and design collection?
Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher: I find the
museum as a significant holding of experimental and conceptual architecture and
design from the 1970s to present, which includes works by architects Lebbeus
Woods, Neil Denari, Diller & Scofidio and R&Sie, as well as furniture
from Memphis designers Nathalie du Pasquier and Shiro Kuramata, early Droog
designs, and important Bay Area works by Ant Farm
Hartmut Esslinger, Yves Behar, and Jack Stauffacher.
Artsy: What is your criteria
for new acquisitions, and how do you differentiate yourselves from other design
collections in the United States?
JDF: The Bay Area is known for its
innovation, experimentation, and questioning norms. When thinking about new
works for the collection, we consider the Bay Area perspective and whether a
work aligns or is juxtaposed with that position.
Artsy: How would you describe
California Design? And why do you think it has been of such interest in the
past few years?
JDF: California designers have
contributed some of the most significant works of design of the past century.
Southern California designers shaped the earlier part of the century by
applying a modern ethos to design, creating opportunities to shed traditions
and traditional architecture and design, and to easily adopt a modern
lifestyle. In the latter half of the century, there is a shift to Northern California,
where countercultural idealism starts to percolate into Silicon Valley, where
design is needed to guide and translate the work of engineers. Apple was one of
the first computer companies to recognize the value of design.
Artsy: What advice would you
give your friends who’d like to begin their own collection (and not just “buy
what you love”)?
JDF: For anyone who is interested in
collecting, design is a great place to start. It’s affordable and usually
functional. Paying more attention to the objects encountered daily creates an
awareness of environment, which gets honed over time. Eventually, one becomes
attuned to subtleties and histories as interest grows. One of the best ways to
learn about design is to become involved with a museum that exhibits and
collects work of interest. At SFMOMA, there are several art and design interest
groups that meet regularly for studio visits, curatorial talks and
presentations, and conversations between designers and artists. These groups
provide education and opportunities to share an existing or emerging passion.