The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) has announced a major gift of 31 paintings, sculptures and drawings by 20 American artists from the Pamela J. Joyner and Alfred J. Giuffrida Collection—celebrated for its intergenerational holdings of abstract art of the African diaspora. The addition of important historical works by Elizabeth Catlett, Beauford Delaney, Norman Lewis and Richard Mayhew, among many others, has inspired a reexamination of SFMOMA’s permanent collection and is having a transformative impact on its galleries.
The extraordinary gift enables SFMOMA to feature a broader range of artists’ contributions to key modernist movements, and to explore their extensive social networks and associations in cities across the United States and abroad. This group of works plays a foundational part in the museum’s long-term goals to present the history of American art through multiple perspectives and voices, and in dialogue with wider international contexts. In addition to adding new artists and stories to the museum’s holdings, the Joyner/Giuffrida Gift provides an opportunity to reimagine SFMOMA’s permanent collection from the inside out.
“We are thrilled by this generous and transformative gift to SFMOMA and inspired by Pamela and Fred’s more than two decades of outstanding collecting and advocacy for Black artists,” said Neal Benezra, Helen and Charles Schwab Director of SFMOMA. “These important works strengthen the museum’s collection in critical ways and allow us to present a richer, more expansive picture of art history.”
“This group of artists was written out of mid-century modernist history only because they were Black. What I want visitors to take away is that there were people of color not only working in the field, but defining the character of the movement at that time,” said Pamela J. Joyner. “SFMOMA is playing a major role by contextualizing these works where they always should have hung. That is a major rewriting of art history to tell the whole story.”
Joyner, a collector for many years and an SFMOMA trustee since January 2020, worked with former Elise S. Haas Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture Gary Garrels to carefully select pieces to fill in historical gaps. The gift helps propel forward other recent efforts SFMOMA has made to diversify its collection, such as the establishment of the Peggy Guggenheim Fund in 2019. Furthering those efforts, “the gift shows us the stories we missed, holds up a fresh lens to the stories we’ve been telling and points our acquisition strategy in new directions,” said Sarah Roberts, Andrew W. Mellon Curator and Head of Painting and Sculpture, who is working with Joyner and Giuffrida on the installation and interpretation of the gift.