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Oakland Museum of California Presents a Site-Specific Exhibition by Conceptual Artist Mark Dion

Media Contact:
Scott Horton
[email protected]

September 11, 2010–March 6, 2011

Visitors Will Go Beyond the Tip of the Iceberg of OMCA Art, History, and Sciences Collections

Oakland, CA, June 23, 2010—For his latest project, conceptual artist Mark Dion has embarked on an unprecedented expedition through the Oakland Museum of California’s art, history, and natural science collections to create multiple site-specific installations and interventions throughout its art galleries, drawing upon the overlooked orphans, curiosities, and treasures from the collections. The Marvelous Museum includes objects that date back to OMCA’s predecessor institutions and, while they often lie outside of OMCA’s California focus, still tell a rich and interesting story of how museum collections are assembled over time and how curators and museum visitors engage in an often invisible and silent dialog about the nature of art, history and science. OMCA Senior Curator of Art René de Guzman will curate this first major West Coast presentation of Dion’s work, which will be accompanied by a publication by Chronicle Books in partnership with The Believer magazine. The book itself, like many of Dion’s artworks, is a compendium of oddities and discoveries featuring an in-depth interview with the artist by Lawrence Weschler, photographs by David Maisel, and writings by a range of cultural and art historians. The exhibition opens September 11, 2010, and continues through March 6, 2011. For more information, visit

The Marvelous Museum comprises two discrete installations and 18 interventions for which Dion has selected a variety of objects, exploring the Museum’s collections over a period of two years and drawing on a pool of close to two million items in storage. Dion refers to these items as "orphans" because they are "objects that no longer fit the museum’s mission or curatorial mandate, which, as times have changed, left lots of things high and dry." The objects he has chosen present what he calls a "comical/critical foil" that illuminates the history of OMCA in visually and philosophically compelling ways. Says Dion, "Museum visitors just see just the tip of the iceberg––museums are dynamic places; battlefields for ideas." The Marvelous Museum provides a provocative glimpse into the museum behind the museum. Says de Guzman, "Dion advances our goal of dynamic collections galleries, and just when OMCA has retooled for the future, The Marvelous Museum celebrates our wondrous past."

The interventions explore the nature of museums and public presentation, the history and purposes of collections and exhibitions and are intended to create an internal dialog in visitors as they contemplate thematic juxtapositions of art, history, and science. Examples include surprising and intriguing placements such as a large stone coin from the Island of Yap in the Art of the Gold Rush Gallery amid 19th century landscape paintings and daguerreotypes; a taxidermy baby giraffe in the California People Gallery surrounded by figures and portraits by Viola Frey, Dorothea Lange, David Park, Carrie Mae Weems and others; a drawer of police batons and Republican campaign materials in the Counter Culture Gallery, and more.

In one dedicated gallery, Dion will also create an installation of three iconic museum staff offices that reveal the theories and mechanics of how museums operate. These vignettes include a 19th-century natural sciences curator’s office filled with unusual biological specimens, art and paraphernalia; a history registrar’s office from 1976, the year of the US bicentennial celebration and a point at which America re-assessed its history; and a contemporary art curator’s office from which curator René de Guzman will work in public view during the exhibition. In this space, the environs of museum staff that usually create exhibitions themselves become the presentations. A second gallery will house a dense collection of exemplary artifacts and storage materials in an installation that simulates the fascinating behind-the-scenes Museum processing rooms and collections storage areas that are rarely seen by the public.

Says Lori Fogarty, Executive Director of the Oakland Museum of California, "Mark Dion’s project aligns with the opening year of OMCA’s re-installed Gallery of California Art, and arrives concurrently with our institution-wide transformation of landmark facilities and presentation of collections. This timing is auspicious as we explore some of the same questions Mark Dion addresses in his own work: What do our collections convey about our history? What are the relationships between the natural world, social history and creative expression? And, for OMCA, what is the relationship of California to broader trends nationally and internationally?"

About Mark Dion

Mark Dion is known for making art out of fieldwork, incorporating elements of biology, archaeology, ethnography, and the history of science, and applying to his artwork methodologies generally used for pure science. Traveling the world and collaborating with a wide range of scientists, artists, and museums, Dion has excavated ancient and modern artifacts from the banks of the Thames in London, established a marine life laboratory using specimens from New York’s Chinatown, and created a contemporary cabinet of curiosities exploring natural and philosophical hierarchies. Dion has a longstanding interest in exploring how ideas about cultural and natural history are visualized and how they circulate in society, in particular through museums. Dion’s work has been presented at many U.S. and international museums and galleries, including solo exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver; Galleria Emi Fontana, Milan; Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York; and Deutsches Museum, Bonn. Dion has been commissioned to create works for the Aldrich Museum of Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut; the Tate Gallery, London; the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; and The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

About the Oakland Museum of California

On May 1, 2010, the Oakland Museum of California welcomed back the public with a dramatically different presentation of its renowned collections of California art and history. Created in 1969 as a "museum for the people," OMCA has revived its founding vision by introducing innovative exhibitions and programming, setting a new paradigm for the way a museum engages the public. OMCA’s transformation is enhanced by the renovation and expansion of its iconic building. Renovation and reopening of the Natural Sciences Gallery is scheduled for 2012.

OMCA’s groundbreaking exhibits tell the many stories that comprise California with many voices, often drawing on first-person accounts by people who have shaped California’s cultural heritage. Visitors are invited to actively participate in the Museum as they learn about the natural, artistic, and social forces that affect the state and investigate their own role in both its history and its future.

New Museum Hours

OMCA has introducing new expanded hours, including Thursday and Friday evenings. OMCA’s popular late night Friday programming has moved to the 2nd Friday of the month. OMCA will continue to offer free admission to the public on the first Sunday of each month, made possible by Wells Fargo. New hours are as follows:

Monday Closed
Tuesday Closed
Wednesday 11 am – 5 pm
Thursday 11 am – 8 pm
Friday 11 am – 8 pm
Saturday 11am – 5 pm
Sunday 11 am – 5 pm
Second Friday of the Month 11 am 9 pm

Admission is $12 general; $9 seniors and students with valid ID, $6 youth ages 9-17, and free for children 8 and under, and members. OMCA offers onsite underground parking and is conveniently located one block from the Lake Merritt BART station. OMCA is at the corner of 10th Street and Oak Street. The accessibility ramp is located at the new 1000 Oak Street main entrance. Programs during the Opening Season of the Oakland Museum of California are made possible by the Clorox Company, the Oakland Museum Womenís Board, Target, Wells Fargo, and Chevron.

For information about the Oakland Museum of California, please visit

Upcoming Exhibitions

In addition to Mark Dion’s The Marvelous Museum, OMCA presents the following exhibitions in 2010-2011:

PIXAR: 25 Years of Animation

(July 31, 2010–January 9, 2011)

Walt Disney’s arrival in Los Angeles in the 1920s firmly established California as a magnet for animation artists in the decades to come. Home to a number of leading studios, the San Francisco Bay Area has emerged as a global center for animation today. PIXAR will provide an unprecedented look at the renowned Emeryville-based studio (located just a few miles from OMCA) and showcase the creative work behind its wildly successful computer-animated films. The only American venue outside of New York after a 5-year international tour, the OMCA presentation greatly enhances the 2005 MoMA show. In addition to all of the artwork from the original presentation, it will include art from Ratatouille, WALL•E, Up, and Pixar’s latest film, Toy Story 3. Working closely with Pixar Animation Studios, OMCA will host a series of dynamic public programs for audiences of all ages in conjunction with the exhibition, to be announced soon.

VIVO: Days of the Dead 2010

(October 6–December 5, 2010)

Curated by Jaime Cortez, VIVO explores the ever evolving Meso-American and Californian tradition of DÌas de los Muertos. Participating artists and school groups will use humor, emotion, and symbolic offerings to commemorate those who have died and in doing so celebrate life. Join us for a colorful, witty, and lively visual experience.

The Arts of the Missions of Northern New Spain: 1600-1821

(February 26–May 29, 2011)

This exhibition, which originated at the Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso (Mexico City), explores the rich artistic legacy of the Franciscan and Jesuit mission churches in northern Mexico and the American Southwest. Nearly all of the Franciscan and Jesuit missions were exuberantly decorated with lavish paintings, sculpture, furniture, and liturgical objects and vestments. The exhibition will showcase 125 objects from collections in Mexico, the United States, and Europe, including many from the missions themselves. Many of these objects have never been seen outside of their original locations. OMCA is the only California venue for this traveling exhibition and one of only two in the United States.

Michael McMillen: A Retrospective Survey

(Spring 2011)

Featuring installations, sculptures, paintings, and films by the Santa Monica-based mix-media artist, this exhibition will be presented throughout the Gallery of California Art and run for approximately nine months, from its April 2011 opening through December 2012. The exhibition will be accompanied by a 240-page illustrated book with essays by French art critic Sophie Dannenmuller; Jeremy Strick, Director of the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas; Paul Vangelisti, writer, poet and Director of the Graduate Writing Program at Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles; Stephanie Barron, Senior Curator for Modern Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and Los Angeles-based film critic Paul Young. The exhibition is organized by Philip E. Linhares, Chief Curator of Art at OMCA, who will provide a biographical essay and illustrated chronology on the life and work of the artist for the catalogue.


Additional information and photographs available on request or at