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Kara Walker Receives Major Commission from SFMOMA


Kara Walker, has been commissioned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) to create a site-specific installation for its Roberts Family Gallery, a free public space that faces Howard Street. The installation, which will debut in July 2024, will be the first work of art created specifically for the gallery, which opened in 2016 as part of the museum's expansion project.

Kara Walker

Walker, who was born in Stockton and raised in Georgia, is known for her powerful and often controversial works that explore the histories and legacies of slavery, racism, violence and gender in America. She works with a variety of media, such as cut-paper silhouettes, drawings, paintings, sculptures and films, to create complex and compelling narratives that challenge the dominant representations of history and identity.


She has shown at SFMOMA over the last 25 years, most recently in 2019 with her monumental sculpture The Katastwóf Karavan, a steam-powered calliope that played songs and speeches related to the history of slavery and resistance in New Orleans. She has also exhibited widely at other major museums and venues around the world, such as the Tate Modern in London, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and the Domino Sugar Refinery in Brooklyn.


For her SFMOMA commission, Walker is planning to create a large-scale installation that responds to the gallery's glass enclosure, which offers a panoramic view of the cityscape. The installation will also address historical preservation techniques, such as dioramas and monuments, that have been used by museums and other institutions to display and visualize history. According to SFMOMA curator of contemporary art Eungie Joo, who is organizing the project, Walker's installation will be informed by the fear and loss experienced as a global society during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as by the local context of San Francisco and its social and political realities.


"Kara Walker’s work engages with subjects of deep global resonance and encourages long looking and connection in its intricate details. We are thrilled to be working with her on a major commission for one of the museum’s most prominent public spaces," said SFMOMA director Christopher Bedford in a statement. "The commission is part of our vision to present work that is at once formally innovative and inextricably connected to topics of meaning in our daily lives. At the same time, we are working to increase the spectrum of arts experiences available in our free spaces, to ensure that SFMOMA is welcoming and accessible to as many people as possible. We look forward to sharing this compelling new work with our community."


Walker's commission is part of SFMOMA's vision to present work that is at once formally innovative and inextricably connected to topics of meaning in our daily lives, as well as to increase the spectrum of arts experiences available in its free spaces, to ensure that SFMOMA is welcoming and accessible to as many people as possible. The Roberts Family Gallery has previously featured installations by such artists as Richard Serra, Diego Rivera and JR.


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