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 Series

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

September 15, 2023 | Mohammad Barrangi, Artist; Ladan Akbarnia, Ph.D., Curator of South Asian and Islamic Art, The San Diego Museum of Art; and Roshi Rahnama, Founder and Director of ADVOCARTSY, an Iranian contemporary art platform and gallery | Dreamscapes: Mohammad Barrangi in Conversation with Dr. Ladan Akbarnia and Roshi Rahnama

October 20, 2023 | Carlo Miranda, Artist and Anita Feldman, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs, The San Diego Museum of Art | In Search of Sonder: Inspiring Empathy through Art

November 17, 2023 | James Balog, Artist | James Balog: Photographs from the Anthropocene

January 29, 2024 | Deborah Klochko, former executive director, Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) | A Legacy of Images: Growth of a Collection

February 16, 2024 | Fernando Botero Zea, businessman and son of Maestro Fernando Botero | The Life and Art of Maestro Fernando Botero

March 15, 2024 | Sarah M. Miller, Ph.D., Professor of Art History, Mills College at Northeastern University | Dynamic Equilibrium: Berenice Abbott’s Documentary of the Invisible

May 31, 2024 | Holly Roberts, Artist | Holly Roberts: One Painting at a Time

June 21, 2024 | Roxana Velásquez, Maruja Baldwin Executive Director and CEO, The San Diego Museum of Art | The Transformative Interplay: Where Art and Architecture Converge

*No lecture scheduled in December or April


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.

Support Council Lectures

The San Diego Museum of Art enjoys the advocacy and assistance of 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 muum, this annual event offers an opportunity to say thank you to current museum members, donors, and supporters. Previous Axline Lectures have featured contemporary artist Ana de Alvear (2020), contemporary artist Trevor Paglen (2019), contemporary artist Nancy Lorenz (2018), photographer 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 (detail), 1885. Oil on canvas mounted on board. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Edwin S. Larsen, 1968.82.