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San José’s Museum of Art’s 50X50: Stories of Visionary Artists from the Collection

Ruth Asawa works on a crocheted-wire sculpture in her living room, ca. 1976. Photo by Allen Nomura.

In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the San José Museum of Art (SJMA) has published a free digital publication titled 50X50: Stories of Visionary Artists from the Collection, highlighting fifty artists from its permanent collection. 50X50 focuses on the lifelong work of visionaries such as Ruth Asawa, Firelei Baez, Enrique Chagoya, Diana Thater, Lee Mullican, Leo Villareal, and more through multimedia content—including interviews, audio recordings, and archival documentation of exhibitions and studios. This open-access publication is available for free online and in multiple formats for download, including PDF and EPUB, at

50X50 is a dynamic, interactive, and open-ended version of a traditional permanent collection publication. It is comprised of 50 artist chapters, written by SJMA assistant curator Kathryn Wade, as well as contributions from Susan Sayre Batton, Oshman Executive Director of SJMA; Dr. Letha Ch’ien, assistant professor of art history at Sonoma State University; Peter Lipman, an avid collector and arts patron, and SJMA Trustee; and Hung Liu, an accomplished visual artist and professor emerita at Mills College.

Each artist chapter features high-resolution images and videos of the artist and their work with new scholarship centering on their practice and lives. The web-based format includes documentation of exhibitions and artist studios that expand upon their professional and private lives, and their ideas, creative processes, and lasting influences. In a commitment to open scholarship, each chapter contains detailed footnotes along with links to the original source, when possible.

These in-depth explorations introduce new scholarship and fresh insight into the artist psyche and celebrate the museum’s history of close relationships with artists. Additionally, the selection of artists reflects the diversity and gender parity inherent within SJMA’s collection. There is nearly even split of women artists featured in 50X50, and more than 1/3 of the artists are international—from Syria, Dominican Republic, India, Vietnam, Mexico, Germany, China, Philippines, Lebanon, and Japan. 


“From the capital of Silicon Valley, San José Museum of Art is thrilled to present this dynamic digital publication in a free, virtual resource that demonstrates the Museum’s commitment to equity and access.,” stated Susan Sayre Batton, Oshman Executive Director. “50X50 provides an introduction to some of the most groundbreaking artists of our time, while directly connecting audiences to first-person narratives and online resources. It is our legacy and a gift to the public in the Museum’s 50th year.


50X50 furthers SJMA’s vision to become a borderless museum, offering audiences everywhere the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of iconic artists in the Museum’s permanent collection. This digital publication shows the Museum’s support of artists as visionary thinkers, and is a catalyst for expanding the reach of its educational resources. This innovative, scholarly production and connects the Museum’s permanent collection to community.

Speaking of her work in the Museum’s collection, artist Hung Liu said “Works of art come to life in relation to other art by other artists, and by engaging an increasingly diverse public audience. They find their place in the public imagination, they are home.” 

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