Art of Noise Exhibition at SFMOMA Celebrates Pioneering Designs Shaping Our Music Experiences

Featuring Over 800 Artworks + Four Audio Installations that Amplify Sound through Visuals and Technology

San Francisco, CA, March 11, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) announces the exhibition Art of Noise, on view May 4–August 18, 2024, celebrating groundbreaking design that enhances and visualizes our musical experiences. From concert posters to record albums, phonographs to digital music players, handheld radios to surround sound, Art of Noise takes visitors on an exploration of how design has shaped our relationship to music over the last century. Drawn largely from SFMOMA’s collection, the exhibition covers the Floor 7 galleries with a staggering 800 artworks: 550 posters, 150 album covers, 100 design objects and four large-scale installations that merge inventive design and audio. 

Art of Noise spans the gamut of design for music, from pioneering products and high-tech audio engineering to DIY graphics designed for live venues. Museumgoers will have the rare opportunity to see a floor-to-ceiling installation of rock posters and album covers—a dazzling array of influential and often familiar designs that remain imprinted on our memory. Visitors will also enjoy communal listening spaces and unique sound environments designed by teenage engineering and Yuri Suzuki, as well as live-curated experiences in Devon Turnbull’s audio sculpture, to be activated by musicians and audio archivists throughout the run of the exhibition. 

“Design has the ability to revolutionize and strengthen our relationship to sound. This unique exhibition shows how trailblazing graphics and design objects fuel our bonds to music and help us develop lasting memories of fleeting musical phenomena,” says Christopher Bedford, Helen and Charles Schwab Director of SFMOMA. “Art of Noise also manifests our goal to create captivating exhibitions that connect contemporary culture with art and design from a wide range of makers and perspectives.” 

“This exhibition is a chance for visitors to reflect on our collective experience of music as visualized through expressive and often cutting-edge design,” Joseph Becker, associate curator of architecture and design, notes. “The San Francisco Bay Area has been an influential center for graphic and industrial design, including audio products that merge aesthetics and engineering, and era-defining posters and fliers. SFMOMA’s design collection reflects these local strengths, as well as iconic designs from around the world, which can be seen in the hundreds of surprising and familiar works on view in Art of Noise.” 

Amplifying Music through Groundbreaking Graphic Design 

Unforgettable album covers, flamboyant posters and eye-catching fliers demonstrate the ability of successful graphic design to provide a visual accompaniment to our auditory experiences. Visitors will encounter hundreds of stunning works from SFMOMA’s trove of psychedelic rock posters from the 1960s and ‘70s, exhibited all together for the first time. Art of Noise features music posters by famed artists like Milton Glaser, Victor Moscoso, Bonnie MacLean and Takenobu Igarashi alongside mid-century modernist record sleeves and album covers by Laini (Sylvia) Abernathy, Emmet McBain, Reid Miles and many others. Also on view are iconic music advertisements that are part of our collective memory, as well as fliers and placards that announce moments from hip-hop, punk and rave culture, often highlighting concerts and performances in the Bay Area.  

Music Technology and Innovative Product Design 

At home and on the go, our relationships to our favorite music have grown and deepened through modern and contemporary music players—including boomboxes, stereos, record players and portable devices—whose varying forms have paralleled advancements in technology and evolving design aesthetics. 

Museumgoers will follow the evolution of playback, from early phonographs and transistor radios to iconic hi-fi stereos by designers such as Dieter Rams and Achille Castiglioni, who helped shape what our modern experience of listening to music looks and feels like. Art of Noise also encompasses examples of engineering milestones that have radically transformed how, where and when we can listen to music, such as the Sony Walkman, the Apple iPod and the Music: Not Impossible Haptic Suit. Other unique and experimental works challenge or play with ideas of portability and functionality, such as Ron Arad’s deconstructed Concrete Stereo, Mathieu Lehanneur’s golden flame-shaped music player, Power of Love, and Matali Crasset’s Soundstation, a radio alarm clock with a cone-shaped speaker. 

Exhibition Design & Overview 

Art of Noise covers more than 100 years of visual aesthetics from our musical world. The exhibition environment is designed in collaboration with the Stockholm-based studio teenage engineering, whose groundbreaking speakers and synthesizers have garnered an international following.  

The exhibition opens with an immersive installation of 700 mind-bending works of graphic design covering the walls: concert posters, album covers, music advertising and fliers for shows, exhibited floor to ceiling. Visitors next enter the largest space of the exhibition, featuring a new interactive seating environment designed by teenage engineering with custom-designed devices for audio playback embedded in the furniture. Beyond are nine tables displaying industrial designs for listening to music, dating from the early 1900s to 2023, including a jukebox, radios, hi-fi systems, speakers and headphones that enhance our enjoyment of music through their design. 

Cutting-edge listening experiences will be featured in two dedicated galleries: on one end of Floor 7 is teenage engineering’s Choir, a set of sonic sculptures programmed to sing together as a choral group, each with a different vocal range; at the opposite end is an immersive audio installation by Devon Turnbull (OJAS). Designed specifically for SFMOMA, Turnbull’s HiFi Pursuit Listening Room Dream No. 2 is a functional sculpture that facilitates exceptionally high-fidelity music playback. The work will be activated through a series of performances with renowned record collectors, musicians and music labels, drawing heavily on the Bay Area’s robust music culture and history and beyond.  

As part of the exhibition, visitors will also encounter the commissioned project Arborhythm, by Yuri Suzuki, in two locations: on the publicly accessible Floor 2 terrace near the museum’s Howard Street entrance and on the Floor 7 terrace, adjacent to Art of Noise. This experiential artwork, composed of tree-like sculptures of yellow, orange and green metal tubes, is both a seating structure and a sonic landscape, remixing sounds of San Francisco’s natural and urban surroundings together into an ambient soundtrack. 

Free Community Day, Record Fair and Pop-Ups 

To celebrate the public opening of Art of Noise, SFMOMA will present a Free Community Day on Saturday, May 4, 10 a.m.–5 p.m., with free admission to the entire museum. For the event, SFMOMA has teamed up with San Francisco Public Library’s Bay Beats for an unforgettable battle of the bands. An eclectic lineup of six local Bay Beats artists will perform on the Floor 5 sculpture garden: Jill Rogers and Crying Time, Bululú, Al Harper, Afterthought, The Seagulls and Cardboard People. Guests are invited to vote for a fan favorite in the battle of the bands, check out merch tables, sign up for a library card, shop the Museum Store Annual Jewelry Trunk Show and visit the Art of Noise exhibition.  
On Thursday, June 6, noon–8 p.m., SFMOMA will host the KUSF Rock N' Swap Record Fair for First Thursday, when admission is free for all Bay Area residents. Visitors can browse and shop records, CDs, tapes and music memorabilia from over 25 vendors, in addition to experiencing Art of Noise.  

During the run of the exhibition, SFMOMA’s Museum Store will also host a Tunnel Records pop-up, where visitors can discover a curated collection of records inspired by Art of Noise and Bay Area music.  

Look for updates on Art of Noise programming and activations at

Art of Noise is organized by SFMOMA and curated by Joseph Becker, associate curator of architecture and design, with Divya Saraf, curatorial assistant in architecture and design. 

Major support for Art of Noise is provided by Mary Jo and Dick Kovacevich, The Bernard Osher Foundation, and the Bernard and Barbro Osher Exhibition Fund. Significant support is provided by Deborah and Kenneth Novack. Meaningful support is provided by Sonya Yu. 

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art 
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San Francisco, CA 94103 
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the United States and a thriving cultural center for the Bay Area. Our remarkable collection of painting, sculpture, photography, architecture, design and media arts is housed in a LEED Gold-certified building designed by the global architects Snøhetta and Mario Botta. In addition to our seven gallery floors, SFMOMA offers 45,000 square feet of free art-filled public space open to all. 
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ART OF NOISE exhibition at SFMOMA May 4–August 18, 2024 ART OF NOISE exhibition at SFMOMA May 4–August 18, 2024

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