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. 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 20, 2019 / Roxana Velásquez, Maruja Baldwin Executive Director at The San Diego Museum of Art / Magritte and Surrealist Works in the Permanent Collection

October 18, 2019 / José-María Cano, Visual artist, musician, composer / Apostolate: A Conversation with the Artist José-María Cano

November 15, 2019 / Elizabeth Turk, American artist and sculptor / Finding the Traditional in the Contemporary

January 17, 2020 / Diane Arkin, Former Senior Lecturer, National Gallery of Art, Washington / Artists in Love

February 21, 2020 / Patrick Coleman, Assistant Director, Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, UC San Diego / Imagination and the Museum: Alternative Interpretations

March 20, 2020 / Leah Cluff, Ph.D., Professor of Art History, MiraCosta College / A Sense of Place: Landscape Painting by Settler and Indigenous North American Artists

April 17, 2020 / Merryl Goldberg, Ed.D., Professor, School of Arts, California State University, San Marcos / Art, Empathy, and Opportunity

May 15, 2020 / James W. Grebl, Ph.D., Manager of Docent Programs, The San Diego Museum of Art / An American Prodigy: The Extraordinary Career of the Sculptor Arthur Putnam

June 19, 2020 / Suzanne Cahill, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor Emerita, History, UC San Diego / Life and Death in Early China: What We Can Find Out from Tombs

*No lecture scheduled in December


Individual Tickets: $13 members | $16 nonmembers | $8 seniors, military | Free for students (with ID, available on-site at the event only)


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.