The Museum’s lecture-based programs offer curators, educators, artists, and guest speakers the opportunity to present a wide variety of perspectives on the Museum’s exhibitions and collections. Guest speakers include well-known curators from other museums, artists whose work is being shown in the Museum, musicians, writers, cultural historians, and others who provide a dynamic dialogue about the ideas and issues presented within the Museum’s exhibitions. The Museum collaborates with cultural institutions within Balboa Park and throughout the region to inspire a rich conversation between speakers, performers, and the audience. Audience participation and discussion, and opportunities to meet the presenters are important features of these programs.

Guest Lecture and Tour Series

This monthly series of lectures and tours features outstanding scholars from throughout the art world. Held at 10:00 a.m. on the third Friday of each month September through June*, each lecture connects a topic to the permanent collection of the Museum. Each lecture is followed by a tour with a docent. Contact us for more information. This program is sponsored by the Museum Docent Council.

September 21, 2018 / Roxana Velásquez, Maruja Baldwin Executive Director at The San Diego Museum of Art / On Bouguereau’s Young Shepherdess and Feminine Archetypes in 19th-Century Art

October 19, 2018 / John Myatt, Reformed art forger, artist, and lecturer / Fake or Forgery / A Short History of Art Fraud

November 16, 2018 / Michael Brown, Ph.D., Associate Curator of European Art at The San Diego Museum of Art / Zurbarán: A Masterpiece Revealed

January 18, 2019 / Cristina Della Coletta, Ph.D., Dean of the Division of Arts & Humanities at the University of California, San Diego / Meddling with the Sex of Angels

February 15, 2019 / Nigel McGilchrist, Art historian, archaeologist, author, lecturer / The Road from Giorgione and Caravaggio to the Greatness of Spanish Painting

March 15, 2019 / Malcolm Warner, Ph.D., Executive Director of Laguna Art Museum / Wayne Thiebaud: California Memories

April 19, 2019 / Andreas Marks, Ph.D., Head of Japanese Art and Korean Art at Minneapolis Institute of Art / Hard Bodies: Contemporary Japanese Lacquer Sculpture

May 17, 2019 / Cornelia Feye, Author and publisher / Female Artists of the 20th Century until 1950 

June 21 ,2019 / Gabriele Finaldi, Ph.D., Director of The National Gallery, London / Golden Age of Spain

*No lecture scheduled in December

Individual Tickets: $13 members | $16 nonmembers | $8 seniors, military | $5 students

Series Tickets: $99 members | $126 nonmembers | 54 seniors, military | $20 students
(To purchase Series Tickets, please add all 9 lectures from the 2018-2019 series into your cart.)


Once to three times a year, the Museum hosts symposia based on current special exhibitions. The program features internationally recognized scholars, museum directors, and important minds in the field of visual studies and culture from all over the globe. This three hour program affords audience members the ability to learn more about the art and artists we bring to San Diego, from several external voices.

Gallery Lectures and Artist Talks

Throughout the year the Museum offers lectures presented by curators, scholars, and contemporary artists that provide new insight on the works of art on view at the Museum. Gallery Lectures and Artist Talks are held in the Museum’s galleries on select Saturday mornings and are free with Museum admission unless otherwise noted.


ArtStops are fifteen-minute, staff-led tours of one to three works on view. Museum curators and educators present these brief yet always enlightening and informative talks the third Tuesday of each month at noon. ArtStops are free with Museum admission and do not require tickets or reservations.

Support Council Lectures

The San Diego Museum of Art enjoys the advocacy and assistance of eight support councils that offer members a wonderful opportunity to deepen their relationship with the Museum through their own specific areas of interest. Several times a year these support councils offer special lectures and discussions led by curators and guest speakers. The support councils’ programs complement the Museum’s schedule of exhibitions, the collection, and ongoing education activities.

Axline Lecture

Since 2000, The San Diego Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego have partnered to present the annual Axline Lecture in honor of Jackie and Rea Axline, longtime trustees and supporters of both museums who in 1999 bequeathed generous endowments to both institutions. Hosted in alternate years by each museum, this annual event offers an opportunity to say thank you to current museum members, donors, and supporters. Previous Axline Lectures have featured contemporary artist Catherine Opie (2017), photographer Sebastião Salgado (2016), sculptor El Anatsui (2015), Alfredo Jaar (2014), and sculpture Charles Ray (2013).

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Adolphe Bouguereau, The Young Shepherdess, 1885. Oil on canvas mounted on board. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Edwin S. Larsen, 1968.82.