Nicholas Nixon, The Brown Sisters (Photo: SFMOMA)

Perhaps more than any other work on display at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, “The Brown Sisters” by Nicholas Nixon captures the essence of the institution’s 75th anniversary celebration. The work is a set of 35 photographic portraits, made annually since 1975, of the artist’s wife and her three siblings standing in the same order. The museum acquired the artwork in 2000, and, as of now, there is no official end date to this act of creation.

Just as the past and future fuse in Mr. Nixon’s photographs, so the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, founded in 1935 as the San Francisco Museum of Art, is taking a Janus-like approach to its milestone year.

Arts organizations often use anniversaries as an excuse for self-flattery and financial opportunism. The recent 30th anniversary celebration for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles — with its ritzy gala headlined by Lady Gaga and the Bolshoi Ballet and a no-holds-barred campaign to raise $60 million — threatened to eclipse the opening of the museum’s important anniversary show, one of the largest exhibitions in its history.


Chloe Veltman
New York Times