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.


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.

June 9, 2018 / Epic Tales Symposium / Dive in to the history and scholarship of Epic Tales from Ancient India with presentations by leading academic minds in the field of Indian and Persian art, Drs. Marika Sardar, Qamar Adamjee, Alka Patel, and Daniel Ehnbom. The symposium will be moderated by Dr. Sabiha al-Khemir, founding director of the the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar.

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 15, 2017 / Roxana Velásquez, Maruja Baldwin Executive Director, The San Diego Museum of Art / A Closer Look at Latin American Art in the Pérez Simón Collection

October 20, 2017 / Michael Govan, CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director, Los Angeles County Museum of Art / Reinventing the Museum: The Visionary Future of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art  
Watch the taped lecture on YouTube.

November 17, 2017 / Anita Feldman, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs and Education, The San Diego Museum of Art / Moore to Kapoor: The British Sculpture Revolution
Watch the taped lecture on YouTube.

January 19, 2018 / Doug Komen and Curtis McConnell, Founders of Great Masters Art Science and Engineering / Art Beneath the Surface: High-Tech Detectives Reveal the Secrets of Old Masters Paintings

February 16, 2018 / Héctor Tajonar, Writer, director, producer, columnist / On Beauty and Ugliness in Art
Watch the taped lecture on YouTube.

March 16, 2018 / Andrew J. Walker, Ph.D., Executive Director, Amon Carter Museum of American Art / West Meets East: Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth, and the Mysterious Power of the Figure

April 20, 2018 / Robert L. Pincus, Ph.D., Visiting Professor of Art History, University of San Diego / Real Life, Ideal Life: Thomas Eakins, Eastman Johnson, and George Inness in the 1870s and 1880s

May 18, 2018 / Linda Komaroff, Ph.D, Curator and Department Head, Art of the Middle East, Los Angeles County Museum of Art / The Intersection of Past and Present in Iranian Art: Behind the Scenes of an Exhibition

June 15, 2018 / Leah Cluff, Ph.D., Professor of Art History, MiraCosta College / Off the Wall: Works on Canvas by Prominent Muralists

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

*No lecture scheduled in December.

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.