de Young Announces Newly Commissioned Contemporary Projects

Jun 20, 2018

Rendering of green, pink, and orange art installation at the de Young museum.

Rendering of Ranu Mukherjee, A Bright Stage, 2018, at the de Young museum. 

Cosima von Bonin, Ranu Mukherjee, and Anthony Discenza with Skywalker Sound

(SAN FRANCISCO, June 20, 2018) The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco are thrilled to announce Contemporary Projects at the de Young museum for the summer and fall of 2018. Connecting with its location, public space and encyclopedic collections, Cosima von Bonin, Anthony Discenza and Skywalker Sound, and Ranu Mukherjee have created site-specific projects transforming the de Young. The projects will offer visitors the opportunity to go from making friends with the inhabitants of the vast ocean, to seeking shade in an Indian banyan tree grove, to pondering a sci-fi plot evolving through San Francisco—all in one visit—challenging visitors to reconsider their perception of the museum.

“Highlighting and interpreting aspects of the de Young, its unique location and the narrative in its collections, our upcoming Contemporary Projects and new installation will each add a distinct and very different perspective”, notes Max Hollein, Director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “Cosima von Bonin will present the first Artscape, a new series of bold, playful installations on the museum grounds; Skywalker Sound and Anthony Discenza’s avant-garde, sound-only film will activate the iconic views from our Hamon Tower, and Ranu Mukherjee’s reimagining of Wilsey Court will add new associations to its function as a public space.”

Simultaneously a complete reinstallation in the museum’s Contemporary wing will present works in dialogue with the museum’s situation in Northern California and Bay Area culture:

Specters of Disruption is the outcome of an inquiry into the de Young museum’s collections, performed with an eye toward identifying recurring narrative patterns across individual curatorial departments,” states Claudia Schmuckli, Curator-in-Charge of Contemporary Art and Programming at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “It’s a storyline that can be traced back to the museum’s inception—an institutional subconscious if you will—that allows for the reflection of current realities through a rich array of art and artifacts that imagine disruption both literally and metaphorically.”

Other highlights include First Impressions: Paul Gauguin, a video work commissioned from Sāmoan interdisciplinary artist, Yuki Kihara. Capturing a candid conversation between members of the Fa’afafine community about their impressions of paintings by the artist Paul Gauguin, the work will premiere on November 17, 2018 in conjunction with the upcoming exhibition Gauguin: A Spiritual Journey.

Anthony Discenza, and Gary Rydstrom and Josh Gold of Skywalker Sound
The Companions: Sounds for a Lost Screenplay
On view until September 4, 2018

The first commissioned artist project for the de Young’s iconic observation floor, The Companions: Sounds for a Lost Screenplay is a cinematic audio environment created by sound designers Gary Rydstrom and Josh Gold of Academy Award–winning Skywalker Sound in collaboration with Oakland-based artist Anthony Discenza. Based on a fictive screenplay for a science-fiction thriller set in early 1980s San Francisco, the work functions as an “auditory cinema” that explores the vital role that sound plays in shaping narrative and affective space in film. Using immersive and directional sounds, the installation moves visitors through different thematic, narrative, and atmospheric components of the story via a series of filmic “frames,” making full use of the sweeping views offered from atop the Hamon Tower.

Discenza’s work frequently employs withheld or incomplete information and he incorporates aspects of fictional narrative into his practice. For The Companions, he approached Rydstrom and Gold, with the idea to create a realization of the screenplay, using only sound design elements.

“There’s no film or visuals; the audio drives the entire experience,” Discenza notes. “So, the fragmentary information we have on The Companions’ storyline became a stepping-off point for Gary and Josh to play with the vernacular of cinema sound itself, and the extent to which it’s possible to use the tools of the sound designer to produce a film without moving images, using the views from the Hamon Tower to frame an imagined narrative.”

Referencing classic films set at the Fine Arts Museums and in San Francisco, such as Vertigo (1958) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1979), the project will feature recordings from Skywalker Sounds’ extensive sounds effects library and 200 newly recorded sound effects, such as the sound of the Skinner Organ at the Legion of Honor.


Ranu Mukherjee: A Bright Stage
July 14, 2018 – January 20, 2019

San Francisco-based artist Ranu Mukherjee employs drawing, painting, animation, and choreography to create hybrid installations that blur the lines between the moving and still image. For the de Young’s Wilsey Court, Mukherjee has conceived a sprawling multi-media work entitled A Bright Stage. The installation metaphorically invokes a grove of banyan trees, also called strangler figs. Native to India, banyan trees grow by attaching themselves to and eventually killing other trees. Mature banyans reach such significant scales that their canopies come to define social gathering spaces. A Bright Stage reflects on the cultural and spatial perspectives of the museum and the atrium as a freely accessible space for public voice and interaction.

“It feels like history is cracking open right now and I’m thinking a lot about the amplification of public voices carrying histories of colonialism and feminism,” says Mukherjee. “This historically and geographically wide-ranging collection [at the de Young] with its colonial, nineteenth-century roots is informing the trajectory of my work. It has the potential to talk back and slowly turn cultural perspective inside out.”

Painted a solid base color—green, pink, light blue, or yellow—the atrium’s walls will be swept in multiple swaths of linen, superimposed with silk embroidery, featuring a pattern of media images of ritual processions, civic demonstrations, dance, and communal prayer. LCD screens embedded in the fabric will display a series of graphic animations of physical and social bodies, traveling with the viewer through the space.

Media images \ #ABrightStage

Cosima von Bonin: For Lazy Lobsters
On view from end of 2018

Artscapes is a new series of playful installations designed by artists for the front lawn of the de Young, in the middle of Golden Gate Park. Each project will invite visitors and passersby of all ages to explore a free, open-air art experience.

For the inaugural project, German artist Cosima von Bonin has conceived For Lazy Lobsters, a site-specific installation connecting the museum with its proximity to the Pacific Ocean.

Exploring the artist’s fascination with the sea, deriving from her early childhood in Kenya on the Indian Ocean, the installation will invoke a ship run aground in the deep sea. Bringing whimsy and food for imagination, the installation will revolve around the “Lazy Lobster,” a 30-foot white boat featuring a functioning slide and attached swing, surrounded by a giant sandbox with oceanic creatures.

A Pinocchio-esque figure “leisurely watches over the disobedient play and social interaction among the lobsters in red-and-white life-saving tubes on the ocean floor,” says von Bonin. “The installation is an ode to the idler and will explore our longing for lazy days.”

Celebrated for her multilayered and mutable practice, von Bonin uses a wide range of media, including textiles, film, music, found and newly fabricated objects, and performance, to create large-scale environments that reference pop and high culture, as well as art history. She takes on themes of social relations and appropriation, while incorporating aspects of humor, sarcasm, and irony in her work. For Lazy Lobsters is her first presentation on the US West Coast in more than a decade.

Media images \ #ForLazyLobsters

Specters of Disruption
August 15, 2018

Disruption as a defining characteristic of the history of Northern California, the current Bay Area moment and the ongoing reshaping of art histories, is the discursive thread running through a new installation in the Contemporary wing of the de Young. Inspired by topics found throughout the museum’s encyclopedic collections from its beginnings to the present day, Specters of Disruption relates to the de Young’s origins as a showcase of colonial pursuits in the American West, its location near one of the most active earthquake faults in North America and the tech community in Silicon Valley. The installation is conceived in five chapters revolving around different manifestations of “disruption” that, like specters, haunt the imagery of nature and culture, history, myth, and technology.

Throughout the galleries, works from the collections at the de Young will be recontextualized with new acquisitions, such as Lincoln, Lonnie and Me (2012) by Carrie Mae Weems, Lee Mullican’s Shatter Passage (1965), Sky Cathedral’s Presence I (1959-1962) by Louise Nevelson, Carl Cheng’s Erosion Machine No.3 (1969) and Abraham Cruzvillegas’s Blind Self Portrait listening to the tunes of “La Josefinita” while I remember Sergio González Rodríguez telling me to fear nothing but my own tears, crying about what you have no more and can’t get back, after eating some dry calamari roasted over a nice clay grill in a fancy restaurant, sipping little glasses of cold rice wine, pretending to write again all I’m kind of memorizing before typing down, but instead reading and reading again about a building some architects want to demolish (2017).


Visiting \ de Young museum
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. General admission adult tickets are $15. Discounts for students, youth, and seniors are available. Members and children five and under receive free admission. More information regarding tickets can be found at

Contemporary Projects at the de Young are part of the institution-wide Contemporary Arts Program, which creates dialogues between living artists and the unique buildings and locations of the de Young and Legion of Honor, and works in the museums’ encyclopedic collection, revealing new meanings and juxtapositions across decades and genres. The Contemporary Arts program is overseen by Claudia Schmuckli, Curator-in-Charge of Contemporary Art and Programming, who curated Ranu Mukherjee: A Bright Stage, Specters of Disruption and For Lazy Lobsters. The Companions: Sounds for a Lost Screenplay was organized by Elizabeth Thomas, Director of Public Engagement.

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s Contemporary Arts Program is made possible by Presenting Sponsor the Lisa & Douglas Goldman Fund. Major support is provided by Nion McEvoy and Leslie Berriman and The Paul L. Wattis Foundation. Significant support is provided by Frances F. Bowes. Additional support is provided by Alexandra Bowes and Stephen Williamson, Kate Harbin Clammer and Adam Clammer, Jessica and Jason Moment, Katie Schwab Paige and Matt Paige, David and Roxanne Soward, Joachim and Nancy Hellman Bechtle, Jeffrey N. Dauber 6and Marc A. Levin, Mr. Joshua Elkes, The Elkes Foundation, Shaari Ergas, Laurent Fischer and Jason Joseph Anthony, Kaitlyn and Mike Krieger, Lore Harp McGovern, Rotasa Fund, Mr. and Mrs. Charles R. Schwab, Gwynned Vitello, Vance Wall Foundation, Anonymous, and the Contemporary Support Council of the Fine Arts Museums.

Customized sound solution for The Companions: Sounds for a Lost Screenplay developed through a partnership with Meyer Sound and produced in collaboration with Skywalker Sound, with additional support from DTS.

About the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco oversee the de Young, and the Legion of Honor. It is the largest public arts institution in San Francisco and one of the most visited arts institutions in the United States. 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 copper-clad landmark building, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, opened in 2005 with an observation level offering breathtaking 360-degree views of San Francisco and the Pacific Ocean. Reflecting a conversation among cultures, perspectives, and time periods, the collections at the de Young include American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts; art from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas; costume and textile arts; and modern and contemporary art.