GLAMi nomination: Artist Voices video series

nominated by: Erica Gangsei, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, USA
institution: SFMOMA
category: Exhibition and Collection Extension

In 2013 SFMOMA closed for expansion and the museum’s program went “On the Go”, teaming up with other local arts organizations on collection presentations and live events. In the absence of exhibition-related interpretive needs, the Interpretive Media team started an ambitious studio-visit interview program which continues even now that the museum has re-opened.

In the three years since, we’ve interviewed over 75 collection artists in 15+ cities across several continents. We’ve been to NYC, LA, and all over the Bay Area. We’ve also visited Boston, New Jersey, Astoria (Oregon, not Queens), London, Berlin, Düsseldorf, Wuppertal, and Tokyo. This initiative has added over 100 new mini-documentaries to SFMOMA’s online video archive at

Just as each artwork on the museum’s walls presents a window to another way of seeing, each of these online films provides a portal into the world of an artist in our collection.

We have developed strategic criteria for selecting and prioritizing subjects:
-Do they have a depth of presence in our collection?
-What is the age of the artist? Older artists should be prioritized.
-Do they have an interesting studio or process that we can film?
-Are they a great storyteller?
-Will their work be on view soon?
-What’s their level of enthusiasm for doing an interview?

The Artist Voices series gives our audiences behind-the-scenes access to the creative process, providing new and far richer resources than we would be able to produce onsite. The ability to capture footage in situ of artists at work, surrounded by their personal collections and in their own studio environments, has created an incredible opportunity to introduce an extraordinary range of creators. The artists also seem to prefer the new approach. Some interviewees were intimidated by the museum context; giving artists the opportunity to be in their own spaces brought a new ease and comfort to the interviews.

This initiative was driven by intensive collaboration with local filmmakers, involving them as full and equal creative partners in both concept and visuals. As demonstrated by platforms such as Open Space, the podcast series and the SFMOMA App, the museum can make innovative content by deferring to the expertise of our local creative community. By commissioning work from talented creative professionals, we have been able to broaden and diversify our institutional voice. Partnership with these talented filmmakers has enabled Interpretive Media to create rich cinematic content, weaving multiple stories and layers together into dynamic stand-alone short films, and to broadcast our artists’ voices way beyond our new building.