San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s board taps Ed Ruscha

Ed Ruscha, 2010. Photo: Sten M. Rosenlund, courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

Ed Ruscha, 2010. Photo: Sten M. Rosenlund, courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

SAN FRANCISCO – The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has announced the election of leading contemporary American artist Ed Ruscha to its Board of Trustees. Ruscha joins the board at the recommendation of SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra and becomes the fourth artist to serve as counsel to museum leadership from the artist’s perspective. Artists who have previously served on the board include designer Yves Béhar (2010 to 2013), photographer Larry Sultan (2009 until his death later that year), and painter Robert Bechtle (2006 to 2009).

SFMOMA maintains one board seat for artists—who are elected for a fixed term of three years and recommended by the director—to represent key areas of museum programming as well as the wider artist community.

“SFMOMA hosted Ed Ruscha’s first major museum retrospective in 1982 and we now hold his work in great depth,” says Benezra. “Given his long history with SFMOMA and his exceptional knowledge of and great influence in the art world, his input will be invaluable as we dramatically expand to become an international showcase for the best in contemporary culture.”

Of his appointment, Ruscha says, “Assuming a role on SFMOMA’s board at this vital time in the institution’s history promises to be an exceptionally rewarding experience. I look forward to collaborating closely with Neal, SFMOMA’s patron community, and its superb staff, whose dedication to fulfilling the museum’s potential is to be admired.”

SFMOMA has also welcomed eight additional cultural and civic leaders to its board over the past year and a half, including Alka Agrawal, Joachim Bechtle, Adam H. Clammer, Ann C. Fisher, Jonathan Gans, Christine E. Lamond, David Morin, and Daniel H. Rimer. Along with a shared dedication to art as collectors and enthusiasts, the new trustees widen the range of expertise on the board, and they join SFMOMA at a dynamic time as the museum begins construction on its major expansion project.

SFMOMA’s trustees are advocates for the museum within the larger community, seeking out opportunities to expand audiences and contributing to the institution’s stability and vitality while sharing a long-term vision to ensure its excellence. A complete list of SFMOMA’s Board is available online.

Born and raised in the Midwest (first Omaha and later Oklahoma City), Ruscha took a road trip westward in the mid-1950s and landed in Los Angeles, where he studied at the California Institute of the Arts and also trained as a commercial graphic artist. Upon graduation, he took a job as a designer of billboards and posters, immersing himself in the language of advertising, popular culture, and machine-made images. He pulled elements from this mass-media vernacular to create his famous “word” paintings, which combine typography with abstract, atmospheric backgrounds. By the 1960s and 1970s, his well-known images of the Twentieth Century Fox logo, gas stations, and other icons of American culture—as well as his association with the renowned Ferus Gallery group—had established him a leader in the West Coast Pop art movement.

Since then, Ruscha has continued to explore language and urban experience through painting, printmaking, drawing, photography, and film. He lives and works in Los Angeles, and is represented by Gagosian Gallery in New York, Beverly Hills and London.

In the early days of his varied artistic practice, Ruscha also produced a number of extraordinary artist’s books, most often based on his photographic explorations of the Southern California landscape, both natural and constructed. Before he achieved great recognition for his paintings, his artistic identity was sustained largely through these books, which have proved to be highly influential works of conceptual art. Along with more than 18 important examples of Ruscha’s paintings and works on paper in its holdings, as well as a portfolio of 142 photographs from his Then and Now series, SFMOMA is one of the very few museums in the world with an entire collection of Ruscha’s historically significant artist books.

Over the years, Ruscha has been the subject of numerous major presentations worldwide, including his first museum retrospective in 1982 at SFMOMA, followed by important exhibitions at the Centre Georges Pompidou in 1989; the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles in 1998; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in 2000 (curated by Neal Benezra); the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005; the Jeu de Paume in 2006; London’s Hayward Gallery in 2009; the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the Hammer Museum in 2011; and the Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria, in 2012. Current exhibitions include Ed Ruscha: Bücher und Bilder at Museum Brandhorst in Munich and Ed Ruscha: Los Angeles Apartments at Kunstmuseum Basel.

Founded in 1935 as the first West Coast museum devoted to modern and contemporary art, SFMOMA is currently undergoing a major expansion project to open in 2016 that will significantly enhance gallery, education, and public spaces, enabling the museum to better showcase more of its expanded permanent collection. While the museum is temporarily closed for construction, from June 3, 2013 to early 2016, SFMOMA will be “on the go” with an extensive array of off-site programming across the Bay Area, including collaborative and traveling museum exhibitions, major outdoor projects and commissioned installations, and new education initiatives.

Visit the museum’s website at or call 415-357-4000 for more information.


Ed Ruscha, 2010. Photo: Sten M. Rosenlund, courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

Ed Ruscha, 2010. Photo: Sten M. Rosenlund, courtesy Gagosian Gallery.