GLAMi nomination: Pocket Theater and In Their Own Words – onsite screening of Artist Voices videos

nominated by: Erica Gangsei, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, USA
institution: SFMOMA
category: Exhibition Media or Experience

Painting and Sculpture Pocket Theater, 2nd Floor Galleries

In Their Own Words, Photography Interpretive Gallery, 3rd Floor

Beginning in 2013, SFMOMA’s Interpretive Media team made the most of the museum’s three-year closure for expansion by traveling to select regions to conduct in situ video interviews with collection artists.

We 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 at SFMOMA’s re-opening in Spring 2016?
– What’s their level of enthusiasm for doing an interview?

In the three years since, we’ve interviewed over 75 collection artists in 15+ cities across several continents. About 50 of these films are available at the recently-reopened museum in two onsite screening areas  – the Photography Interpretive Gallery’s feature In Their Own Words, and the Painting and Sculpture Pocket Theater. Each interactive allows visitors to cue up their own playlists of fully-captioned mini-documentaries about artists and artworks.

The Artist Voices films provide visitors with glimpses of the artists at work, surrounded by their personal collections, in their own environments. This footage has enabled us to introduce our audiences to an extraordinary range of creators, and to help them understand the artists in SFMOMA’s collection as fellow humans.

This initiative was driven by intensive collaboration with local filmmakers, involving them as full and equal creative partners in both the concept and visuals. Partnership with these talented filmmakers has enabled us to create rich cinematic content, weaving multiple stories and layers together into dynamic stand-alone short films.

In a Fall 2016 evaluation, visitors who had watched videos in the two onsite screening areas said:

“It’s fascinating to learn the process behind what the artists are thinking.”

“There was a piece of art on the wall over here that I was not paying attention to. I was looking at other things. So when I saw her [the artist, in the video], I thought she will make me appreciate it more and want to go back to it.”

“I didn’t even look at the painting before. I just bypassed it because it didn’t catch me that much. After the video I wanted to go back.”

“The work that touched me the most today was actually the videos.”

SFMOMA’s Artist Voices initiative has produced over 100 new short films, many of which can be seen at: