The San Diego Museum of Art Announces Merger with The Museum of Photographic Arts

Thursday, May 25, 2023
The San Diego Museum of Art Announces Merger with The Museum of Photographic Arts

The San Diego Museum of Art and The Museum of Photographic Arts announced today that they will merge to become one unified institution. This strategic merger will allow the combination of collections, resources, and expertise for the benefit of the San Diego community and beyond.

The San Diego Museum of Art (SDMA) is one of the city’s oldest and most esteemed institutions, founded in 1926 with a collection that spans over 5,000 years of art history. The San Diego Museum of Art has more than 22,000 works of art, having added thousands of photographs to its collection over the last eight years, and has hosted over 20 photographic exhibitions in the last decade, all of which were curated in-house. A few of the most memorable exhibitions were Romantic Views: Photography of Mexico; Black Life: Images of Resistance and Resilience; Mary Ellen Mark: Twins; Lisa Ross: Elegy to a Uyghur Homeland; Masters of Photography: The Garner Collection and Wang Xingsong: Social Mobility; which is currently on view at the Museum through September 17, 2023; and Bruce Davidson: Subway, which opens on June 3, 2023. SDMA also maintains a dedicated area for photography within its Visible Vaults as well as integrates video and photographic works within the Art of the Americas and Modern and Contemporary Art galleries.

With its move into a permanent home in Balboa Park in 1983, the main objective of The Museum of Photographic Art (MOPA) at the time was to assemble an outstanding collection of film, video, and still photography—a repository of its cultural heritage. A plan was put in place to create an active, participatory museum, alive with programs and collections that were an important part of this new institution.

Today, the MOPA collection holds over 9,000 images by 850 artists and 22,000 books and related materials highlighting photographic processes and art objects relevant to the medium. With a global focus, MOPA exhibitions have ranged from Sebastião Salgado: Genesis to Out of the Shadows: Contemporary Chinese Photography. Other exhibitions have contributed new scholarship to the field, including Nancy Newhall: A Literacy of Images, The Time Between: The Sequences of Minor White, and Aaron Siskind: Mid Century Modern. Currently on view are Arresting Beauty: Julia Margaret Cameron from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Robert Wilson: Video Portraits, and The Water Holds Me: Photographs by Suda House.

With MOPA becoming a part of SDMA, together, these two museums will unite a diverse range of art forms and resources, allowing visitors to experience the world of visual art through multiple lenses.

“The merger of these two institutions will enhance the visitor experience by leveraging our mutual cultural resources,” says Roxana Velásquez, Maruja Baldwin Executive Director and CEO at The San Diego Museum of Art. “We will be able to share a greater story told together through photography and in dialogue with our overall collection, as both organizations share a commitment to promoting cultural understanding, education, and diversity. By joining forces, we can achieve these goals more effectively.”

The San Diego Museum of Art will now house a new department called The Museum of Photographic Arts at The San Diego Museum of Art, focused solely on photographic arts. MOPA’s existing collection will join SDMA’s collection, providing visitors with a more comprehensive view of the art form.

“MOPA has always been a museum that embraces change, from multiple community partners in our education and film programs to bi-lingual text for all of our exhibitions,” says Deborah Klochko, Lawrence S. Freedman Executive Director and Chief Curator at The Museum of Photographic Arts. “Together, with our similar missions and combined photography collections, there will be so much more for our audiences.”

The San Diego Museum of Art and The Museum of Photographic Arts will officially merge on July 1, 2023. Klochko will take the role of Curatorial Advisor and implement MOPA’s current exhibition schedule, and assist with the transition period through December 2023. The newly combined institution will continue to offer a range of programming that includes exhibitions, educational initiatives, and community outreach programs.


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Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.


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