San Diego’s museums of art and photography will merge


The San Diego Museum of Art (SDMA) and the city’s Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) will merge into a single institution, effective 1 July.

Under the terms of the merger, announced on Tuesday (23 May), SDMA will create a new department, called the Museum of Photographic Arts at the San Diego Museum of Art, where MOPA’s existing collection will reside. Currently the two institutions operate out of nearby buildings in Balboa Park, the city’s central green space, which is home to most of its legacy cultural institutions.

“We will be able to share a greater story told together through photography and in dialogue with our overall collection, as both organisations share a commitment to promoting cultural understanding, education and diversity,” Roxana Velásquez, SDMA’s executive director and chief executive, said in a statement. “By joining forces, we can achieve these goals more effectively.”

SDMA has put on 20 photography exhibitions over the past decade, including Motion Pictures: Photographs by Gjon Mili (2018) and Black Life: Images of Resistance and Resilience (2019), thanks in part to the thousands of photographs that have joined its 22,000-piece collection over the last eight years. MOPA’s collection, meanwhile, contains more than 9,000 images by more than 850 artists, on top of nearly 22,000 books and other art objects that mine the advancement and expansion of the medium.

Deborah Klochko, executive director and chief curator at MOPA, take on the role of curatorial advisor during the merger, overseeing the photography institution’s current exhibition schedule at its original location, which will remain open through 2024.

“MOPA has always been a museum that embraces change, from multiple community partners in our education and film programmes to bilingual text for all of our exhibitions,” Klochko told NBC San Diego. “Together, with our similar missions and combined photography collections, there will be so much more for our audiences.”

The merger with MOPA follows another major recent boost to SDMA’s collection. In March the museum received a $2.4m bequest from the estate of Janet Brody Esser, a sum that will support the acquisition and exhibition of art by Black artists and artists of the African diaspora.

SDMA has received donations of more than 200 books from Esser’s estate, plus a selection of artworks from her collection. The bequest has facilitated the institution’s acquisition of a mixed media work by Nick Cave and helped fund a recent Justin Sterling exhibition.


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