April 15, 2015

John Baldessari at 2015 MedalAward Gala

School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University
Photo: Hedi Slimane, 2011. Courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery.

For over five decades, John Baldessari has influenced generations of artists as both an educator and creator. No matter the medium—be it painting, prints, video, mixed media works, or sculpture—his interest lies “in what gets us to stop and look, as opposed to simply consuming images passively.” The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (SMFA), is proud to celebrate his iconic career at the Medal Award Gala on May 18, 2015. First presented in 1996, SMFA’s Medal Award annually recognizes notable artists and influential art patrons for their commitment to and impact on the art world.

“John Baldessari has spent his career making transformative and critically important work while tirelessly dedicating himself to his students—we could not imagine a more meaningful honoree for the SMFA Medal Award this year,” says Committee Chair Abigail Ross Goodman. “His unrelenting commitment to his practice as artist and teacher, and his ongoing critique of image-making, has been profoundly influential on generations of students and fellow artists, as well as the broader public. We are proud to be able to include him in our history at SMFA.”

John Baldessari (b. 1931) studied at San Diego State College, U.C. Berkeley, UCLA, the Otis Art Institute, and the Chouinard Art Institute. He taught at the California Institute of the Arts (Valencia, CA) from 1970 to 1988 and the University of California at Los Angeles from 1996 to 2007.

He has received numerous awards including the Goslar Kaiser Ring, Germany (2012); the Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Venice Biennale, Italy (2009); the B.A.C.A. International, Maastricht, The Netherlands (2008); The Archives of American Art Medal, Washington, D.C. (2007); and The Americans for the Arts Lifetime Achievement Award (2005). He has been inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2008) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2004). He has received an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the National University of Ireland (2006); an honorary PhD from San Diego State University, California (2003); and an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the Otis Art Institute, California (2000).

Baldessari has been featured in more than 200 solo and over 900 group exhibitions worldwide. Recent retrospectives of his work include Pure Beauty (2009–10), which traveled from the Tate Modern, London to the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA); the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and John Baldessari: Life’s Balance (Works 1984–2004, Kunsthaus Graz am Landesmuseum Joanneum, Graz, Austria (2005); and John Baldessari: A Different Kind of Order, (Works 1962–84), Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Vienna (2005). Recent solo exhibitions were mounted at the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, Moscow (2013); the Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, The Netherlands (2012); and the Monchehaus Museum Goslar, Germany (2012). Upcoming exhibitions include the Staedel Museum, Frankfurt (2015–16).

Two volumes of John Baldessari’s Catalogue Raisonné of unique works have been published by Yale University Press: Volume 1 (1956–74) and Volume 2 (1975–86), with Volume 3 (1987–93) forthcoming in fall 2015.

“We’re privileged to celebrate John’s extraordinary career, as both an influential artist and a committed teacher—his work challenges us to appreciate a more conceptual world shaped by images,” said SMFA President Chris Bratton. “We look forward to honoring him at the 2015 SMFA Medal Award gala.”

The Medal Award, endowed through the generosity of the Haynes Family Foundation, has been awarded to Glenn Ligon, Sarah Sze, and Ellen Gallagher, among others. The gala raises funds to support student resources. For tickets and information, visit

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