Museum Hours
Thu: 1 PM–8 PM
Fri–Mon: 10 AM–5 PM
Tue–Wed: Closed
200 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
Contemporary Art


Jun 20, 2014 – Sep 14, 2014

What’s “gorgeous” to you? There’s often a fine line between attraction and repulsion, but this summer at the Asian Art Museum, we’re drawing no lines at all.

Gorgeous presents 72 uniquely stunning artworks drawn from the collections of the Asian Art Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Spanning over 2,200 years and dozens of cultures, these artworks are organized in an attempt to shift the focus from historical and cultural contexts, emphasizing instead the unique ways each work announces itself or solicits a viewer’s attention. Left to your own devices, you may gravitate toward the strange or the familiar. Some artworks may be beautiful to you; others, bizarre and challenging. Some may be all three. Whatever they are, your reactions to the show will be unique. And that’s what interests us. As Allison Harding, co-curator of Gorgeous, puts it, “This isn’t about what the museum thinks. This is about what you think.”

We’ve blended paintings, sculptures, objects of high design or decoration and photographs. Artists like Marcel Duchamp and Marilyn Minter mingle with works that span the extent of Asia, including a 1,000 year-old Indian sculpture of the Hindu deity Durga victorious over a buffalo demon. Across from a Picasso, you might spot a decorated Qur’an from 16th-century Persia or an arresting photograph by Sally Mann.

Come take a look. What draws you in? What pushes you away? Take a moment to consider what’s “gorgeous” to you. We think you’ll be surprised.

Artwork Highlights

Walking through the Gorgeous galleries, you’ll notice we’ve done things a little differently this time around. Rather than a historical organization, our curators have arranged the show into fluid “groupings” that provide potential associative links. Most of the artworks could be placed in more than one category, and the arrangements we’ve selected represent only a few of many possibilities.

With Gorgeous, we’re moving away from the more traditional predetermined museum experience and proposing a unique opportunity for dialogue. According to Forrest McGill, co-curator of Gorgeous, even among curators there’s been, “a very lively set of conversations and debate while developing the show.”

You’re sure to have some ideas of your own, and that’s exactly the point. In the slideshow above, you’ll find images of artwork from our curators’ groupings: Seduction, Dress Up, Pose, In Bounds, Danger, Beyond Imperfection, Reiteration, Fantasy, Evocation and On Reflection.

Take a look at the slideshow and ask yourself, which piece might belong to which category? After you’ve come up with an answer, visit the museum to find out whether or not we agree!

Gorgeous Curators

Allison Harding

As a high school student I often visited the Asian Art Museum in Golden Gate Park and SFMOMA, which opened its Mario Botta building during my junior year. The beginning of my path in art history can be traced back to the afternoons I spent exploring these two very different museums. Bringing their collections together as a curator has reminded me of those days, before art became my job, when I could simply stand in front of an artwork and let it affect me. I hope Gorgeous will bring viewers such pleasures, entice them to see art with fresh eyes and maybe even fall in love with a work or two. A few of my longtime loves are in the exhibition. Seeing them together will be a thrill.

Forrest McGill

Working on Gorgeous has been enormous fun. Though my specialty is the arts of India and Southeast Asia, and I’ve been a curator at the Asian Art Museum for many years, I’m also passionately interested in Western art. Here’s my chance to combine two loves in ways that—I hope—will come across to visitors as delightful, provocative and rewarding both emotionally and intellectually. Before and after earning a PhD decades ago I taught everything from seventh-grade geography to graduate seminars in art history. I like nothing better than the back-and-forth of a friendly debate about art.

Main image: Michael Jackson and Bubbles, 1988, by Jeff Koons (1955). Ceramic, glaze, and paint. Collection SFMOMA, purchase through the Marian and Bernard Messenger Fund and restricted funds, 91.1. © Jeff Koons, EX 2014.1.15.

Organizers & Sponsors

This exhibition was organized by the Asian Art Museum in partnership with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Presentation at the Asian Art Museum is made possible with the generous support of Prospect Creek Foundation, Fred Eychaner, Helen and Charles R. Schwab, Doris Fisher, The Bernard Osher Foundation, United, The Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang Fund for Excellence in Exhibitions and Presentations, Jim Breyer, William Mathews Brooks, Eliza and Dean Cash, Sakurako and William Fisher, Fred M. Levin and Nancy Livingston, The Shenson Foundation, Hiro and Betty Jean Ogawa, Pacific Gas & Electric Company, Lucy Sun and Warren Felson, Jean and James E. Douglas, Jr., and an anonymous donor.

Media sponsors: ABC7, San Francisco Examiner, 7×7.