Collection Rotation: Maria Naula

January 10, 2011  |  By
Filed under: Projects/Series

[Our regular feature, Collection Rotation. Each month a guest organizes a mini-“exhibition” from our collection works online. Maria Naula works in SFMOMA’s Accessions Department supervising the acquisitions process, and it's possible she knows the collection, at least as it's grown over the last decade, more comprehensively than anyone on staff. Welcome!]


The works chosen for this rotation are among my favorites in the museum’s collection. When Suzanne asked me to post my version of the Collection Rotation on Open Space, I was flattered and began by looking at image after image of a collection I have watched grow for 10 years. There were memories of favorites, reunions with works I had not seen in quite some time, and works I wonder if anyone has seen yet. I must share these, I thought. During this selection process, I also reflected on the way these works were brought into the museum’s collection — through the cultivation of the accessions committees, as bequests, as promised gifts, and as works co-owned by the museum and collectors in the community — and a history being built not only for the sake of the work and its content as art history but for the museum, its community, and its placement in the art world. However, the images were chosen not in reference to any external criteria such as date, artist, credit, but in relation and response to the image itself. They are, to me, immediate and striking in their beauty, speak a visual poetry through form and composition, share humor and delicate movement, vibrant color palettes … a telling tableau of sorts. What a thrill to reflect on our collection, and just as the museum’s 75th anniversary year comes to a close. — Maria


Hy Hirsh, _Untitled (Seated Pubescent Girl)_, n.d; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; © Estate of Hy Hirsh

Edward Weston, _Torso_ , from the portfolio _Desnudos 1920–1945_, 1925, printed later; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; © 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

Dora Maar, _Le Simulateur_ (The Simulator or The Pretender), 1936; Collection of the Sack Photographic Trust; © 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

Bruce Nauman, _Untitled_, 1965–66; The Panza Collection; Promised Gift to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; © 2011 Bruce Nauman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Jan Saudek, _Animal_, 1975; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; © Jan Saudek

Giorgio Morandi, _Natura morta_ (Still Life), 1952; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; © 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome

Tacita Dean, _Day for Night_, 2009; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; © Tacita Dean

Francesca Woodman, _Untitled, MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, NH (M.479)_, 1980; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; © Estate of Francesca Woodman

Yves Klein, _Untitled (ANT154)_, 1961; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; © 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

Bruce Conner, _THREE SCREEN RAY_, 2006; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; © The Conner Family Trust

Jacob Aue Sobol, _Untitled #08_, from the series _I, Toyko_, 2006–8; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; © Jacob Aue Sobol

Henri Cartier-Bresson, _Arsilah, Morocco_, 1933, printed ca. 1950s; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; © 2011 Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos

Irving Penn, _Girl in Bed on Telephone, New York (Jean Patchett)_, 1949; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; © Estate of Irving Penn

Judith Turner, _John Hejduk, Architect, The Cooper Union Renovation, New York, New York, 1974–75_, 1974, printed 2003; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; © Judith Turner

Helen Levitt, _New York_, ca. 1940; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; © Estate of Helen Levitt/Laurence Miller Gallery, New York

Bruce Nauman, _Untitled_, 1964–65; The Panza Collection; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; © Bruce Nauman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Gottfried Helnwein, _Blue Child_, 1996; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; © 2011 Gottfried Helnwein/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Andrew Schoultz, _Ten Thousand Leaves In Darkness_, 2009; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; © Andrew Schoultz

4 Comments

  1. Vance Maverick Says:

    Thanks for this! A whole lot of mystery going on here.

    The Dean is a picture of Morandi’s props, in his studio — strange to see them with such sharp edges and strong tones.

    The Maar is a trip — some of the mystery is cleared up at the work’s page.

    For me the biggest mystery is Irving Penn — but not the sort of mystery that can be cleared up by a wall text. By rights (well, by prejudice), he ought to have been as glib as David LaChapelle or Annie Leibovitz. But somehow, in an atmosphere of the most mainstream success and ease of access, making coy jokes with pretty models, the photos came out great, individual and delicate.

    With a couple of these (the Schoultz, the second Nauman (the blue inverted J) and the Hirsh), I don’t know how to get started. Perhaps Ms. Naula could add a comment or two?

  2. Peter Bradbury Says:

    It was a shock to me, seeing the Hirsh (Seated Pubescent Girl): the covered is shockingly uncovered and she appears to have two ages, the weathered and the untouched. I have no desire to reach beyond what is actually there, to see anything but the body as it is, and those hands that seem to know what they touch.

  3. twiceastammy Says:

    the morandi has always struck me as palpable (i can almost feel the paint on my hands when looking at still life). this, in stark contrast to the tacita dean image of morandi’s studio. the photograph places the objects on a stage, far from reach, contextualizing (biographically) the artist’s eye within his studio. thank you for the post maria!

  4. Emil Guyot Says:

    What strikes me about many ofl these pictures is shadow. The artists seem to have taken the shadow to a finesse of observation that creates the mystery that Vance Maverick talks about. In the Yves Klein it is as though the shadow is cast by the movement of people dancing. In the Francesca Woodman it is the shadow that emphasizes the indentation in her arm. In other places where there is no shadow there is something like it, mystery created by something else, and I admit that it is possible that the beautiful suggestiveness and eroticism of light that comes from a few of these pictures permeates them all, for me. In Irving Penn’s picture it is the legs beneath the sheet. A thoughtful and surprising bringing together of images.

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