Five Questions

New series. The same five questions to SFMOMA visitors, artists, staff, or guests.  Let’s see what happens with these over time. Enjoy!


John on the 4th floor landing

Name/ Place of residence/ Occupation/ Hobby?

My name is John, I live in San Francisco, California. I am a full-time film student and I’m a full-time cyclist too.

Do you collect anything?

I collect Vonnegut books. I have quite a few now, a whole shelf full.

If you could invite any artist to dinner, who would it be and why?

I would love to have dinner with Miranda July. She seems really adventurous and really full of life and I’d love to have a conversation with her.

If you could steal any artwork in the world to have up in your house, what would it be?

It would be Boy with Pipe by Picasso. I know at one point it was the most expensive painting in the world. I’m just saying that for reference. But I think it’s a beautiful painting.

What’s your favorite tool?




Bonnie in the SFMOMA offices

Name/Place of residence/Occupation/Hobby?

My name is Bonnie. I live in Berkeley, California. I’m the research manager in the fundraising department at SFMOMA. My hobby is organization.

Do you collect anything?

Yes, way too much stuff. I collect things with owls on them, things with turtles on them, teddy bears, ugly dolls, things that are blue… I collect too much.

If you could invite any artist to dinner, who would it be and why?

Oh, man, that’s tough. I think I would invite Gustave Baumann. He was around the turn of the century or a little bit later and he lived in New Mexico and he did these beautiful, colorful woodblock prints. But he also made puppets. He was busy 24/7 with stuff and I’d like to know how he did that.

If you could steal any artwork in the world to have up in your house, what would it be?

I really liked Martin Puryear’s blue circle. I don’t remember the name of it. But that I would love to have.

What’s your favorite tool?

Sewing machine.



Sue in the Atrium

Name/Place of residence/Occupation/Hobby?

My name is Sue. I live in Castro Valley. I’m a graphic artist and my hobby is acting and singing.

Do you collect anything?

I do collect art, to a minor extent. I collect paintings and sculpture, both abstract and representational. The way I determine whether I’m going to buy a work of art by if it won’t let me leave the gallery or store without it. It really speaks to me and I don’t ever buy art because it goes with a chair or anything like that.

If you could invite any artist to dinner, who would it be and why?

Oh my goodness. Well, just having seen her work, I think probably Georgia O’Keeffe. I just think she’s a fascinating person with a rich history. I love her art and she’s a woman and very independent, successful woman artist.

If you could steal any artwork in the world to have up in your house, what would it be?

It would probably be a post-impressionist, like a Van Gogh or a Cezanne or a Gauguin. Something like that.

What’s your favorite tool?

Any kind of tool? Oh my gosh, my Macintosh. I’m a graphic artist and it’s a very important tool in my profession. Plus, it’s fun and I’m definitely a Mac person as opposed to a PC person.

Whose Car Is This?

Whose Car is This?

I was walking down Market Street on Saturday just taking in the day with my sometime colleague Bradford Nordeen. He and I have co-authored a groundbreaking article on “The Cinema of Whitney Houston” that is supposed to appear in the October issue of L.A. based art and culture magazine Animal Shelter. So there we were fresh from shopping when we saw this classic car parked on Market Street. (Wait, I forgot to say that if you are interested in bargains, get yourself down to “Agnes B.” on the first block of Grant, they are going out of business and everything, everything is 70 per cent off!) It’s a shame they are going out of business but now their prices are sort of in the Ross Dress for Less category. Well back to the car.

Tweaky Village

This painting has everything in it — maybe it’s Market Street itself– from the Ferry Building through the tweaky village of the Castro!

Tourists from dozens of nations saw a photo op and brought out state of the art Leicas, Panasonics, Nikons to do it justice. (more…)

One on One: Dominic Willsdon on Jasper Johns

Jasper Johns, _Flag_, 1958. On extended loan from Jean Christophe Castelli.

My Aunt Gladys once, when she read a thing in a magazine, wrote me a letter, saying she was so proud of me, because she had worked so hard to instill some respect for the American flag in her students, and she was glad the mark had been left on me.

―Jasper Johns to Emile de Antonio.

I’m next up with one of our weekly One-on-One curator talks, Thursday 2 July at 6.30pm.Someone had the idea that the British curator should do 4th of July weekend.I’m going to be talking about Jasper Johns’ Flag (1958), one of his series of pictures, if they are pictures, of the flag of the United States.SFMOMA has another of these (not now on view), from 1960-69, made from lead.The first in the series, Flag (1954-55), is in the collection of MoMA in New York.

I know this series fairly well.I used to teach about it at Open University residential schools in the late 1990s, relying on Fred Orton’s book Figuring Jasper Johns, and the related curriculum materials he made for the OU. The quotations in this post, (three from Emile de Antonio’s 1973 film Painters Painting), my facts, and many of my ideas about Flag come from that book.I’d say that Orton—who was associated with the Conceptual Art group Art & Language—sees Johns from a Conceptual Art perspective. About the Flag in the MoMA collection Orton asks a Conceptualist’s question: is it a flag or a painting?In other words, has Johns made a painting of a flag, or made a flag with paint?

When I stopped teaching his work, I didn’t think about Johns again for a long while, until, recently, I saw a poster of a Johns Flag, quite large, hanging in the Visa Section of the U.S. Embassy in London.I’ve seen it there a few times in the last couple of years, at various interviews.There are a couple of other posters of paintings and, of course, there are some other American flags (though not as many as you would expect).The flag-like object in SFMOMA (or MoMA) is probably not a flag, nor is the poster of Flag in the Museum Store; the poster in the Embassy, I’m not so sure.And if someone stuck a poster of Flag in the window of his big rig, or burned one in a street somewhere, it’s a flag. Meaning is use.

Some people thought he was anti-American… that he was a man who protested against the symbols of America, the flag. At the time there really was no special reason for it: there was no Vietnam War… There was McCarthy.No, McCarthy had disappeared a long time before that.

―Leo Castelli to Emile de Antonio.

The original Flag, of 1954-55, was in Johns’ first solo show at the Leo Castelli Gallery, in New York, in January and February 1958.Alfred H. Barr Jr., former Director of MoMA but at that time the Director of Collections, wanted to acquire it for the Museum.The acquisition was blocked by the Committee on the Museum Collection (someone wondered if buying Flag ‘might not leave the Museum open to attack from groups like the American Legion’), and the matter was referred to the Board of Trustees.The Board also decided against buying Flag, ‘fearing that it would offend patriotic sensibilities’.The work eventually entered the MoMA collection in 1973, as the gift of Philip Johnson (who had been an anti-Johns member of the Committee on the Museum Collection in 1958), in honor of Barr on the occasion of his retirement.

By 1958, McCarthy had disappeared, but in 1954 he hadn’t yet.The Army-McCarthy Hearings (widely televised at the time, and, by the way, the subject of de Antonio’s amazing 1964 film Point of Order!)took place in the summer of that year, not long before Johns conceived of Flag.Patriotism and the flag were hot issues in 1954.On Flag Day, 14 June, Eisenhower approved controversial legislation that added the words ‘under God’ to the Pledge of Allegiance.On 10 November, the dedication of the Iwo Jima Marine Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery took place.Johns, himself, had been discharged from the army only two years before.Is Johns’ Flag for or against the American flag?Impossible to say.

The Flag on view now at SFMOMA was painted in 1958, shortly after the Castelli show.Like the ’54-55 Flag, it shows the 26th flag of the United States, with 48 stars (the 27th flag was instituted 4 July, 1959, and the twenty-eighth and current flag, on 4 July, 1960, following the granting of statehood to Alaska and Hawaii; later Flags by Johns show the 50 star version). SFMOMA’s Flag is, in fact, not in this museum’s collection.It is on extended loan from Leo Castelli’s son Jean Christophe.We’re very lucky to have it.It was previously shown in the Centre Pompidou’s 2001 exhibition Les Années Pop (The Pop Years), and before that—I love this fact—it was on loan to the US Embassy in Paris for the tenure of Ambassador Felix G. Rohatyn.Imagine it hanging in the Ambassador’s office.It originally entered France as diplomatic cargo, and when the painting came to San Francisco, transport was again facilitated by the US State Department.

Emile de Antonio: What about Dada?

Jasper Johns: ‘What about Dada?’ What kind of question is that? ‘What about Dada?’

My remarks here have been about what kind of flag Flag is. On Thursday, I’ll say some things about what kind of painting it is, about the lesson of Marcel Duchamp, lessons for Andy Warhol, and the glorious indifference Flag seems to have toward something that you would think it impossible to be indifferent about.I hope you can be there.


I have heard tales in the corridors here of total madness/spectacle about to unfold on the Wattis stage. Tonight at 6:30 THIRTY-THREE CONTESTANTS chosen from last week’s solo auditions for Tony Labat’s I WANT YOU project will perform for your vote. The performances are set to be staged in three rounds, hosted by poet/activist emcee Jason Mateo, and with inter-act entertainments by local chanteuse Veronica Klaus. The audience will choose five winners via old-fashioned school-style scantron ballots that will be tallied up live onstage at the close of the eve; as each winner is announced, he or she will be whisked away to be immediately photographed for their poster+slogan, with the audience watching the  backstage proceedings over closed-circuit live feed.

The Finalists: Johnny Bicycle, Jeffrey Brown, Kym Coffey, Nathan Conrad, Donald Daedalus, Veri Severe, Peter Dobey, Kali Eichen, Misty Epperson, Erica Gangsei, Rebecca Goldfarb, Nalani Hernandez-Melo, Dale Hoyt, Tara Jepsen & Beth Lisick, Lauren Kronemyer, Peter Max Lawrence, Suzanne L’Heureux, Sadie Lune, Nicole Mills-Novoa, Lady Monster, Sahar Mozaffar, Henry Neill, Johnny Rogers & Shalo P, Kendra Russo, Brandon Santiago, Shreya Sethi, Stephen Shearer, Andrea Slattery & Elizabeth Deters, Angela Thornton, Alexis Luna, Ian Treasure, Zurab Tsintsabadze, Hazel White