SFMOMA: The Chronicles of San Francisco
Massive Screen by SNA Displays Showcases Art Exhibit at SFMOMA
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) unveiled a new art installation by internationally recognized artist JR celebrating the city’s extraordinary and diverse people on a state-of-the-art, 107-foot-long digital canvas. The massive LED display, featuring a 2.5 mm pixel pitch, was manufactured and installed by SNA Displays.
To create the piece, The Chronicles of San Francisco, JR set up a mobile studio in 22 locations around the city, where he filmed, photographed, and interviewed more than 1,200 people from across San Francisco’s multifaceted communities. In the completed work, a digital mural scrolls across the enormous LED display, bringing together the faces and untold stories of everyday people.
The digital display contains nearly 26 million pixels, and is likely the highest-resolution LED screen in the U.S.
The affordability, reliability, and flexibility of large-scale LED surfaces have reached the point where LED is a realistic alternative to projection systems for video art in many museums.
Sensory Interactive provided design, technical specification, procurement, and project management services for the display, and it was manufactured and installed by SNA Displays. Both firms view this installation as a milestone for digital art in the museum environment, and as a type of project they expect to see more of in the future.
“The affordability, reliability, and flexibility of large-scale LED surfaces have reached the point where LED is a realistic alternative to projection systems for video art in many museums,” said Sensory Interactive Managing Director Christopher Graefe.
“This is giving museums the ability to bring video art out of the traditional darkened room and into wide-open spaces like the Roberts Family Gallery at SFMOMA,” Graefe continued. “We think we’re seeing the beginning of a trend toward more of these types of high-profile installations.”
SNA Displays’ Executive Vice President Jason Helton commented on the significance of the new SFMOMA display:
“We’ve manufactured several digital displays used in the artistic space,” said Helton, “but this one is the largest and highest-resolution. It’s also a great example of how the latest LED display technology can help an artist realize a creative vision, even for the most ambitious pieces.”
Because of the complexity of executing an installation with such demanding technical requirements and a large, international team, Sensory Interactive got involved in the process early. The company’s architects, motion-graphic designers, and 3D artists worked with the JR team to ensure that every aspect of the display supported the goals for the installation.
“We believe that the artwork and the people whose stories it tells are what is really important,” said Sensory Interactive Associate Director Mark Petterson, “and that the technology should fade into the background. Our goal was to help JR find and implement the hardware and software that would create the best experience for people viewing the piece.”
A key part of this effort was finding the right display configuration, size, and placement to create the most inviting and immersive experience for viewers. As part of this effort, Sensory Interactive, SNA Displays, and the JR team worked together to explore a variety of design options, particularly for joining the two planes of the display at their intersection.
Ultimately, the team settled on a curved connection and a slightly concave angle for the two planes. This approach draws visitors into the space and maximizes their sense of immersion as they are surrounded by the massive, slowly moving digital image.
The teams from both SNA Displays and Sensory Interactive enjoyed having the opportunity to work on this rewarding project.
“It was a thrill to be a part of an artwork of this caliber,” said Sensory Interactive’s Graefe. “And it was exciting to take the things we have learned from some of the world’s largest LED display projects and use them to elevate this display beyond almost anything that has previously been done in a museum environment.”
“It’s pretty special to be part of a project that merges art and digital technology in such a bold, beautiful way,” said SNA Displays Senior Director of Marketing Gerard Shallo. “And this installation really highlights the fact that the right technology can help bring world-class artwork to life.”
Presented in SFMOMA’s soaring Roberts Family Gallery, The Chronicles of San Francisco ran for approximately one year. During its run, the exhibition was free and accessible to the public.
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