Wesaam Al-Badry calls it an “institutional seal of approval”. It’s “monumental” for Chelsea’s Ryoko Wong. And Rupy C. Tut says she can now enter the de Young Museum and feel a part of it.
These are three of 30 artists whose work was acquired by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco with a $1 million grant from the Svane Family Foundation.
“It feels very fresh and new,” Wong told Hyperallergic. “At the same time, I wish this was more the norm for living artists to be featured in major museums.”
An exhibition of the 42 new works is planned for 2023 for the de Young, one of San Francisco’s Fine Arts Museums (the other is the Legion of Honour). Works include Wong’s “Mint Tea in the Sauna During Sunset”. (2022), Al-Badrys Al Couture (2018) and guest worker (2020) and A New Normal (2022) by Tut.
Following the 2020 De Young Open, which saw artists from across the nine Bay Area counties display their work on the museum’s walls, the Svane Foundation, which continues its mission to support local artists in the area, came forward with the goals of the Museums saw in line.
Claudia Schmuckli, curator of contemporary art and programs at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, spent the past year visiting galleries and artists’ studios to select works. A few themes emerged, says Schmuckli, including responses to environmental issues, historical depictions of women in art, and migration.
Al-Badry’s work falls with his into two of these categories – femininity and immigration Al Kouture Photos showing women wearing luxury scarves niqabs (Part of a 2018 show at the de Young, Contemporary Muslim fashion) and be Migrant Worker Seriesrecorded in 2020 in the cities of Salinas, Fresno and Bakersfield, California.
The artist, who was born in Iraq and spent time in a refugee camp in Saudi Arabia before moving to Nebraska with his family, says he’s thrilled his photos of workers harvesting tangerines and pomegranates during the pandemic reap, will hang on the walls of the de Young.
“Social justice is often talked about in museums, but these works are not collected,” Al-Badry said. “As Claudia [Schmuckli] told me she was interested in the farm workers, I thought that was nice.”
Tut expressed a similar opinion about the acquisition of her triptych A New Normal. Each side of the work shows a woman wearing a shawl, one depicting the forest and the other the ocean. Both face the center painting of a tree surrounded by fire with snakes coiled around it, depicting an unloved creature ignored during a crisis. Anger is the driving emotion behind this painting, which deals directly with climate change, Tut said. She was moved by the reactions of others to the acquisition.
“I had a flood of emotions at the reaction of the women in my community,” Tut told Hyperallergic. “I’ve always felt that what I do doesn’t happen in a vacuum — it’s also about people who look like me, and that’s what struck me the most about this announcement.”
Wong created her painting of two people in a sauna overlooking Marin’s Mount Tamalpais after visiting the site in Richmond, a city near Oakland.
“It was so aesthetically interesting to me,” Wong said. “I went during sunset and it was so beautiful with a picture window looking straight at Mt Tam. I didn’t even relax — I just thought, ‘I’m going to do a painting.’”
Both Wong and Tut are represented by the Jessica Silverman Gallery. The eponymous founder says artists want their work displayed where they live.
“As a dealer in San Francisco and surrounded by institutions like the Berkeley Art Museum and the de Young and SFMOMA and the San Jose Museum of Art and the Asian Art Museum – these are my hometown museums and I want to see work by Bay artists from.” that area,” Silverman told Hyperallergic.
Recently acquired works include videos by Cristóbal Martínez and Ana Teresa Fernández, sculptures by Guillermo Galindo and Sahar Khoury, ceramics by Ruby Neri and collages by Rashaad Newsome. Some pieces combine different media, such as Stephanie Syjuco’s “The Visible Invisible: Plymouth Pilgrim, Antebellum South, Colonial Revolution” (2018) featuring three dresses made entirely of green “Chroma Key” background fabric that can be overlaid with new patterns.
Thomas P. Campbell, the museums director, says he looks forward to seeing the pieces in conversation with the rest of the permanent collection — like Syjuco’s installation amidst de Young’s 19th-century historical works — for comment cast as we create fantasies about the past.
Being part of the reshaping of the canon is one of the reasons Al-Badry went to art school and he wants the people he photographs to feel welcome in the museum and represented in the artworks.
“They’ve been working and supporting Americans, and they’re going to be with some of the best artists in the world,” he said of the migrant workers portrayed in his series. “I will invite the workers to see for themselves. I’m working class, so to me it’s like, ‘Yo, we’re here.'”