Into the Museum: Tucker Nichols

de Young Museum Commission

Cultural Encounters at the de Young: Artist-in-Residence at Large

May 2008—What ultimately makes a museum what it is? Many people readily accept that a museum is defined by its collection. However, can that be true if such a small portion of a museum’s collection is on view at any given time? In his commissioned artwork as Artist-in-Residence at Large for the de Young Museum this spring, Bay Area artist Tucker Nichols (b. 1970) explores the question of what makes a building a museum. Since January of 2008, Nichols has been creating work in and around the de Young in a variety of media, including photography, drawing, and temporary interventions using tape and common materials.

Nichols began his residency at the de Young by asking basic questions about the experience of visiting a museum. He acted as if he had never visited a museum by examining each element of the experience, paying particular attention to the areas beyond the art. He considered the roles that the surrounding park, the parking garage, the building’s exterior, and even the restrooms play in an individual’s experience at the de Young. Nichols also engaged with visitors and museum staff by asking them questions about their opinions of the de Young’s architecture and art collections. The artist describes his process of examination when he says, “If you took away the art, would this still be a museum somehow? What else could it be used for? I tried to understand this place by making art in it myself.”

These questions guided Nichols’ creation of his conceptual artwork, which offers a fresh look at the museum from the eyes of a living artist. Nichols’ completed work, titled Into the Museum, involves photographs of his on-site interventions, fabricated marketing copy, and drawings on museum stationary. His work will be on view at a reception at the de Young on the evening of May 30 and on the de Young’s website,

Events for Tucker Nichols: Into the Museum
Friday, May 30 \ 6–8:30 pm
Free admission \ Reception and artist talk in the de Young’s Kimball Education Gallery
All visitors are invited to attend the culminating celebration of Nichols’ residency and view his artwork. Light refreshments as well as a free publication will be available at the reception. The artist talk at 7:15 pm presents Tucker Nichols in conversation with Griff Williams, owner of Gallery 16.

Tucker Nichols
Bay Area artist Tucker Nichols has a diverse background in the arts and museum work. He received a BA from Brown University and an MA from Yale University, with both degrees in the History of Chinese Painting. Known primarily for his drawings and photographs, Nichols has had recent solo shows at ZieherSmith Gallery in New York, Lincart and Gallery 16 in San Francisco, and the Kunstpanorama in Luzern. His work has been featured at the Drawing Center and John Connelly Presents in New York and Rocket Gallery in Tokyo. His drawings have been published in McSweeney’s, J&L Books, Zoetrope: All Story, Nieves Books, and The New York Times. Nichols’ most recent book, Postcards from Vermont, was published by the Expanding Color System.

Cultural Encounters at the de Young: Commissioned Artists
Nichols is the second in a series of commissioned Artists-in-Residence at Large at the de Young. This unique new program is part of Cultural Encounters at the de Young, a year-round series of interconnected programs designed to attract new and diverse audiences to the museum. The Cultural Encounters programs create exciting educational and artistic opportunities inspired by the de Young’s permanent collection and temporary exhibitions. With the goals of exploring the relationships between art and different cultures and examining the universality of the creative process, Cultural Encounters incorporates a range of programs, such as Friday Nights at the de Young and de Young Artist Studio. The programs feature a spectrum of activities designed to enhance the museum experience, including live music, dance, film, lectures, artist demonstrations, special performances, hands-on art activities, and exhibition tours.

de Young Visitor Information
The de Young Museum, designed by Herzog & de Meuron and located in Golden Gate Park, showcases American art from the 17th through the 21st centuries, international textile arts and costumes, and art from the Americas, the Pacific, and Africa.

Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118

Tuesday–Thursday, Saturday and Sunday: 9:30 am–5:15 pm. Friday: 9:30 am–8:45 pm. Closed on Monday.

$10 adults, $7 seniors, $6 youths 13–17 and students with a college I.D. Members and children 12 and under are free.

$5 surcharge may apply to special exhibitions. The first Tuesday of every month is free. ($5 surcharge for special exhibitions still applies.)

The de Young is accessible to wheelchair users. For information, contact the ADA Coordinator: 415.750.7645 (voice) or 415.750.3509 (TTY).