March 27, 2023

The San Diego Museum of Art Receives $2.4 Million to Acquire Art by Black Artists and Artists of the African Diaspora

This bequest is a transformative gift for the Museum to further position the institution’s positive impact on the community

Janet Brody Esser
Dr. Janet Brody Esser

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (March 27, 2023) – The San Diego Museum of Art announced today the receipt of a $2.4 million bequest from the estate of Dr. Janet Brody Esser to acquire and display works of art by Black artists and artists of the African diaspora. In addition, the Museum has received more than 200 volumes from Dr. Esser’s library and select works of art from her personal collection, including a drawing by local artist Marianela de la Hoz and four lithographs by Luis Jiménez. Her bequest made possible the inaugural acquisition of a mixed-media work by contemporary artist Nick Cave and a recent major exhibition of work by Justin Sterling.

As a long-time active member and supporter of the arts community in San Diego, including involvement in two of the Museum’s support councils, Dr. Esser understood the gaps in The San Diego Museum of Art collection. Motivated by social justice and equity, as well as the Museum’s mission and dedication, she aimed in her lifetime and through her legacy to help bring underrepresented artists to the institution and community.

“I first met Janet while a member of The San Diego Museum of Art’s African and Pacific Arts Council, where I learned of her extensive knowledge of the intersection of Latin and African culture,” said Denise Rogers, Ph.D., Professor of Art History, San Diego Mesa College. “I witnessed many instances when she took a strong stance to ensure unrecognized voices would be heard in acquisitions, scholarship, and representation in the arts community. She was a passionate advocate for the representation of underrepresented groups in the Museum’s collection, and her gift will help the Museum fulfill this unmet need.”

Dr. Esser’s lifelong passion for folk art began during her residence in Peru in the 1960s, and continued throughout her career as an art historian of Mexican folk art and masking traditions. This work contributed to her commitment to address what she saw as social injustice, both in academia and the community. A drawing by Marianela de la Hoz and lithographs by Luis Jiménezare among the many works acquired by Dr. Esser that will join the Museum’s permanent collection.

“We are honored that Dr. Janet Brody Esser so valued the encyclopedic collection cared for and shared by the Museum that she is helping shape our permanent collection for the future. Her passion for Mexican, Latin American, and African art was evident and, through this gift, it’s a joy to see her impact continue,” said Roxana Velásquez, Maruja Baldwin Executive Director and CEO at The San Diego Museum of Art. “We are deeply grateful to Dr. Esser for her support of the institution and bringing historically underrepresented art to our community.”

About The San Diego Museum of Art

Providing a rich and diverse cultural experience, The San Diego Museum of Art houses some of the world’s finest art. Located in the heart of Balboa Park, the Museum’s internationally renowned collection of more than 22,000 works–dating from 3000 BC to present day–includes Spanish and Italian old masters, South Asian paintings including the Edwin Binney 3rd Collection, East Asian art, American art, Latin American art, Photography, and Modern and Contemporary paintings and sculptures. The Museum regularly features major exhibitions of art from around the world, as well as an extensive year-round schedule supporting cultural and educational programs for children and adults. It hosts engaging experiences that invite visitors to explore art through music, dance, film, food, and so much more. The Museum also offers Virtual SDMA, a variety of online experiences, including the SDMA app, Masterpiece Minute podcast, and virtual performances in collaboration with other local arts institutions. At The San Diego Museum of Art, exhibition text is always in English and Spanish.

The San Diego Museum of Art is located at 1450 El Prado in Balboa Park, San Diego, Calif., 92101. General Information, (619) 232-7931, Group Sales: (619) 696-1935, Website: Twitter: @SDMA, Instagram: @SanDiegoMuseumofArt Facebook: