The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Announce a Major Exhibition of Artifacts from the Ancient City of Teotihuacan, Many Recently Excavated or Never Before Seen in the U.S.

Circular relief, 300–450. Stone. Museo Nacional de Antropología

Circular relief, 300–450. Stone, 49 1/4 x 40 1/2 x 9 7/8 in. (125 x 103 x 25 cm). Museo Nacional de Antropología / INAH, 10-81807. Archivo Digital de las Colecciones del Museo Nacional de Antropología / INAH-CANON

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Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire
de Young | September 30, 2017 – February 11, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO (June 28, 2017) – The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) are pleased to premiere Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire, the first major exhibition on Teotihuacan in the U.S. in over twenty years. The ancient metropolis of Teotihuacan is one of the largest and most important archeological sites in the world, and the most visited archeological site in Mexico. At its peak in 400 CE, Teotihuacan was the cultural, political, economic, and religious center of Mesoamerica, and inhabited by a multiethnic population of more than 100,000 people. This historic exhibition will feature over 200 artifacts and artworks from the site, and is a rare opportunity to view objects drawn from major collections in Mexico, some recently excavated – many on view in the U.S. for the first time – together in one spectacular exhibition.

“We are proud to have been working in collaboration with our cultural partners in Mexico for over 30 years,” says Max Hollein, Director and CEO of FAMSF. “In this groundbreaking exhibition, an abundance of recent archeological discoveries will offer visitors to the de Young insight into the life of the ancient city and give greater context and significance to the Teotihuacan murals in our own collection.”

Located approximately 30 miles outside of modern day Mexico City, Teotihuacan was founded in the first century BCE near a set of natural springs in an otherwise arid corner of the Valley of Mexico. At its peak a few centuries later, the city covered nearly eight square miles, and featured enormous pyramids, long avenues, and residential compounds. Highlights of the exhibition will include artifacts recently excavated from the site of the Feathered Serpent Pyramid, as well as objects from both recent and historic excavations of the Moon Pyramid and the Sun Pyramid—the three largest pyramids at Teotihuacan.

The exhibition, which will travel to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), will also reunite exquisite mural fragments in FAMSF’s collection with others from the same residential compound at Teotihuacan. In 1986, FAMSF repatriated a number of murals as part of an unprecedented joint agreement with Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). Together they established a program of collaborative conservation and exhibition. Alongside these murals will be monumental and ritual objects from the three pyramids, as well as ceramics and stone sculptures from the city’s apartment compounds, which were inhabited by a diverse group of peoples from across all of Mexico.

“The past ten years have seen major revelations in Teotihuacan archaeology. With these discoveries comes a new sense of Teotihuacan that will have an impact for generations to come,” says Diego Prieto Hernández, INAH General Director. “We are grateful for the enthusiastic and abiding partnerships we have developed with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Such exchanges are crucial to create a shared understanding and vision, across countries and cultures, a common basis for our human experience."

The national and international teams working at the main pyramids have made significant discoveries since the last major Teotihuacan exhibition in 1993, when the de Young hosted Teotihuacan: Art from the City of the Gods. By bringing objects from various excavations together and encouraging visitors to understand the context of specific sites within the city, the new exhibition will provide a rare opportunity for Bay Area audiences and visitors to experience a significant place in Mexico's historical and cultural landscape.

“This exhibition will give visitors the chance to be immersed in the history of Teotihuacan and its urbanism through encounters with 200 objects,” says exhibition curator Matthew H. Robb. “It is an opportunity to anchor these objects on the map of the site to understand how art held communities together in a large, complex, cosmopolitan city— offering valuable lessons for contemporary audiences.”

In the sixth century, a devastating fire in the city center led to Teotihuacan’s rapid decline, but the city was never completely abandoned or forgotten; the Aztecs revered the city and its monuments, giving many of them the names we still use today. Teotihuacan is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attracts upwards of four million visitors annually.

Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire is curated by Matthew H. Robb, chief curator of the Fowler Museum at UCLA and former curator of the arts of the Americas at FAMSF. The exhibition will be on view at the de Young Museum in San Francisco from September 30, 2017 through February 11, 2018. It will travel to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) from March 25 through July 15, 2018.

This exhibition could not have been possible without a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

Media image gallery | | #TeotihuacanNow | @deyoungmuseum

Visiting | de Young
Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco. Open 9:30 a.m.– 5:15 p.m. Tuesdays–Sundays. Open select holidays; closed most Mondays.

For adults, tickets are $28; for seniors 65+, $25; students, $19, and for youth 6-17, $13. Members and children five and under receive free admission. Prices are subject to change. More information can be found at

An audio tour will be available for purchase to visitors.

Digital Stories
FAMSF will offer a free digital exhibition guide to accompany Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire. Digital Stories give audiences the opportunity to learn more about an artist, art movement, or time period before coming to see an exhibition. Readers will be given a deeper understanding of the presented content, and the skills to observe critically and generate personal connections.

Exhibition Organization
This exhibition is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, in collaboration with the Secretaría de Cultura through the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia de México. This exhibition has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor. Presenting Sponsors: Diane B. Wilsey, The Donald L. Wyler Trust. Conservator’s Circle: The Charles D. and Frances K. Field Fund. Benefactor’s Circle: Wells Fargo. Patron’s Circle: Janet Barnes and Thomas W. Weisel Family. Additional support is provided by Carol and Lyman Casey, and Alec and Gail Merriam.

Exhibition Catalogue

The accompanying catalogue features twenty-six essays written by an international team of scholars that cover the archaeology of the three main pyramids and the apartment compounds, as well as important topics in Teotihuacan religion and art, and features 183 detailed catalogue entries of the objects in the exhibition. Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire will be available in hardcover and will be available for purchase through the Museum Stores.

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, comprising the de Young in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, are the largest public arts institution in San Francisco.

The de Young originated from the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition in Golden Gate Park and was established as the Memorial Museum in 1895. It was later renamed in honor of Michael H. de Young, who spearheaded its creation. The present copper-clad landmark building, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, opened in October 2005. It holds the institution’s significant collections of American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries; art from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas; costume and textile arts; and international modern and contemporary art.

Media Contacts
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