Anyone seen a bison head lying around?

The Archivists at the SFMOMA Archives work to organize and preserve the records of the museum’s history, sorting through press clippings, scrapbooks, and letters to find the ideas behind past exhibitions, activites, and events. We’ll occasionally treat you to some of our more illustrious findings.

It was a tense moment in the comment box last week, but the SFMOMA blog seems to have weathered the storm. Do let us say that the museum is no stranger to criticism. There is, lingering temptingly in the archives, a story too good to keep to ourselves: the infamous mystery of the “missing” artwork donated in 1972 by the Bay Area Dadaists.

In an attempt to upstage a donation by Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson of paintings by Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, the Bay Area Dadaists gave the Museum an “even more lavish gift,” in the form of “Bertha Buffalo” – a bison head with a Dada treatise in its mouth. When Director Gerald Nordland didn’t properly acknowledge the gift, the Bay Area Dadaists sent him this threatening letter:

Bay Area Dadaists threatening letter to Norland


Along with the letter, the Bay Area Dadaists also sent:

One: A copy of a recent article about the Anderson donation (which apparently left them “Rauschenbergless”).

Two: A letter sent to members of the press (complete with creative spelling) exposing the atrocious actions of the museum…

1. That Mr. Nordland is lieing and is afraid to show our bison head “Bertha Bufallo” in or to the Museum.

2. One of the guards stole the Bufallo from the Museum. Think of the headline that makes (Guard steals Art from Museum).

3. Or the Museum staff misplaced the Bufallo under an ashtray or something, which would be hard to do considering its’ size, but you never know it just might have happened.

And, three: They also included their original statement, describing the Bertha Buffalo gift:

Just as the whiteman came and slaughtered the bison, for greed and profit forcing them into near extinction, so have the galleries, schools, museums, and art establishment conspired to try to crush the life and force out of the dada spirit. So to the San Francisco Museum of Art we (the bay area dadaists) present Bertha Buffalo a symbol not of our extinction, but of yours.

Now there’s a critique. 😉

Collection Rotation: Karla Milosevich

Our regular feature, “Collection Rotation“. Each month or so I invite a local guest to organize lists, groupings, or ‘exhibitions’ from our permanent collection. This is our second installment, devised by artist & curator Karla Milosevich, who includes notes about her selections along the way. Thanks Karla!

LINER NOTES: When invited to put together a group from the collection, I thought of what a neighborhood florist once said, “Everything matches.” And the chef Giada De Laurentiis, granddaughter of film producer Dino De Laurentiis, who said, “Don’t be careful, just throw it all in.” This is that kind of collection. There is no real rhyme or reason, just artists or things that appeal to me. I hope you enjoy it. –KM

—-When this photo was taken in 1979, I lived 80 miles from here:

Franz Gohlke, Wichita Falls, Texas, April 14, 1974, Looking Northeast, Collection SFMOMA, Gift of Robert Adams

Franz Gohlke, Wichita Falls, Texas, April 14, 1979, Looking Northeast, 1979

Jo Baer, Untitled, 1964-1972; Gift of Rena Bransten; © Jo Baer

Jo Baer, Untitled, 1964-1972

—-I searched the online collection for all things American Indian, since they too once roamed that area of Texas. I also searched for aliens, UFOs, and other things supernatural:

Maximilian Franz Josef Cornelius Wolf and Johann Palisa, The Milky Way, c. 1900, Collection SFMOMA, Foto Forum

Maximilian Franz Josef Cornelius Wolf, The Milky Way, c. 1900

Maximilian Franz Josef Cornelius Wolf, Star Map, from the album Photographische Sternkarten (Photographic Star Maps), 1903, Accessions Committee Fund

Maximilian Franz Josef Cornelius Wolf and Johann Palisa, Star Map, from the album Photographische Sternkarten (Photographic Star Maps), 1903

—-I love Martin Kippenberger!———————–

Martin Kippenberger, Untitled, 1991,Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund: gift of Collectors Forum, Doris and Donald Fisher, Madeleine H. Russell, Helen and Charles Schwab, and Norman and Norah Stone

Martin Kippenberger, Untitled, 1991

(I am particularly fond of his self-portrait drawings on hotel and mental hospital stationery.)

Martin Kippenberger, 1990, Untitled, Collection SFMOMA, Gift of the Artist

Martin Kippenberger, Untitled, 1990

Martin Kippenberger, The Raft of the Medusa, 1996, Collection SFMOMA, Ruth and Moses Lasky Fund purchase

Martin Kippenberger, The Raft of the Medusa, 1996


Check him out posing for an etching in this video shot in 1977. —So cute!

[Anglik Riemer does some drawing for an etching portrait of Martin Kippenberger in her studio (1977)]


—-Mind mirror!—-

Dan Graham, Opposing Mirrors and Video Monitors on Time Delay, 1974/1993, Collection SFMOMA, Gift of Dare and Themis Michos and Accessions Committee Fund: gift of Collectors Forum, Doris and Donald Fisher, Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr., Pam and Dick Kramlich, Leanne B. Roberts, Madeleine H. Russell, and Helen and Charles

Dan Graham, Opposing Mirrors and Video Monitors on Time Delay, 1974/1993

—-Rise like a Phoenix, Katharina Sieverding:

Katharina Sieverding, Transformer, 1973/1974 correct caption forthcoming

Katharina Sieverding, Transformer, (installation/eight slide projections), 1973/1974, © 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn


I thought about this song when thinking about Jeremy Blake and how he disappeared into the ocean:

Jeremy Blake, 1906, from the Winchester series, 2003 <p data-wpview-marker= Jeremy Blake, 1906, from the Winchester series, 2003[/caption]

Karla Milosevich is an artist and curator living in San Francisco. She is currently working on a music project and running the Right Window art space with friends.

Many of you have been waiting for word

from SFMOMA, regarding an incident in the museum last Friday. Thanks for your patience; internet time and institution time run on slightly different scales of speed. The response is here.

Pasión por Frida @ Saturday’s MAPP

Music, dance, performance, crafts projects, art exhibitions, poetry readings, last Saturday’s Kahlo-themed MAPP free-for-all evening started with René Yañez’s: Pasión por Frida Frida Kahlo lookalike contest at Galería De la Raza, which meant the rest of the night you were running into Fridas all over the place. I admit I liked the boy-drag-Frida(s) best:

But of course there were many beautiful others:

Megan Brian described the audition: “At 5:30pm the doors of the Galeria opened and Fridas came streaming in. The diversity of Fridas was clear: all ages, races and genders seem to identify with her. Applicants ranged from a child welfare worker to artists. One applicant who came in drag said the motivation to dress up as Frida is that she is “fierce and ruling!” Others noted her as role model: a strong woman who embodied a passion for life mixed with pain, love and a sense of urgency. One applicant wrote that she was here “because we are all Frida”; another simply signed her application form with a kiss. René Yañez said he was not looking for person who looks just like Frida, but rather a Frida that emanates a feeling and captures peoples’ hearts.

After about an hour of portrait-taking and auditionee interviews, Nidhi Singh took the stage. Singh (with self-described inner “techno-global-India Frida that needs to be expressed,” performed first as traditional Frida, in iconic garb, delivering witticisms to the crowd. Then she removed her flowing skirt and added a blazer, proceeding to cut off her long black hair by the fistful, all the while staring straight at the audience with a challenging look in her eyes.” (Flickr sequence of the whole performance here.)

And, wow. Violeta Luna’s Embedded Frida? Aimee Friberg (who took all the photos you see here) adjectivized her best: a tantalizing, suffering/pleasuring Frida, embedded and processional through the streets of the Mission. Four performance stops, each more fantastic than the last:

The crowds? Everywhere along the way, it was like this:

And then there was the whole Tony-Labat-in-the-back-of-the-Rolls situation:

(he was handing out ‘want ads’ for his upcoming SFMOMA I WANT YOU project)

Congratulations, and thanks, to the MAPP, Violeta, Rene, Tony, Frank, the Red Poppy Art House, and all the many Fridas and artists and onlookers along the way.

(all photos: Aimee Nicole Friberg. Her superb MAPP Flickr set here.)

It was like this


Photo: Jessica Whiteside

In the galleries yesterday; but at a mere 8,241 visitors we didn’t quite break last month’s Free Tues record.

It’s Tuesday.

The Frida Kahlo was here/SFMOMA MAPP HAPPENING happened Saturday night in the Mission and was AWESOME, Frank Smigiel Public Programs Curator Person taking it to the streets we adore you. I’ll have a mini report-back and some pics up tomorrow; meanwhile some great pictures of Rene Yanez’s Kahlo lookalike audition, Violeta Luna’s performance, & other MAPP pics are cropping up on FLICKR.

In other morning news, it’s FREE TUESDAY today at the museum, notable not just because, er, Free, but because it’s a FREE TUESDAY in AUGUST during the run of the FRIDA KAHLO exhibition. Which means it’s going to be worth a run down to the museum just to see the crowds. (You still have to pay to see Frida. But it’s only $5. Instead of, um, uh…17.50.) Last Free Tuesday we broke attendance records with EIGHT THOUSAND EIGHT HUNDRED AND FORTY-FIVE visitors. Today we’re expecting—let me say this as accurately & professionally as possible—WAY more than that. I’ll see if we can get some pictures or videos of the crowds.

On the subject of crowds: I’m agoraphobic in pretty much every other situation, but when it comes to museum galleries stuffed with people, weirdly, I’m exhilarated. I admit this isn’t always about the viewing of individual objects, which, it is true, can feel somewhat compromised when you have to elbow past or through. But ALL THOSE PEOPLE, looking at art. Together. In big air-conditioned rooms. It makes me feel giddy, and happy; freakishly, I love it. You can too. See you there.