The Hard to Find Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

If you’re planning your first visit to the¬†Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art¬†please realize that it is a little hard to find. It’s an urban museum situated between other buildings. Google directs you to a semi-circular drive, just next to the building, but there isn’t a big sign there that tells you that you’ve arrived at the front of the building next door and the side of the SMOCA building.

View from the street in front of SMCOA
Side view of the SMOCA, looking to the street

If you park in the Wells Fargo & E 2nd St, garage, most likely when you exit the parking garage, you’ll see this building. Notice the small “Museum” sign with arrow to the right, in the middle window on the lower right that I’ve highlighted.

Then, when you get around the corner to the right, there’s another sign up the path to let you know, hey, here’s the entrance, up here!

After you’ve made your way here, the best is yet to come.

The SMOCA is a rather small museum, but usually has 2-3 exhibits at one time. They offer free entrance on Thursdays and Friday and Saturday nights from 5-9pm. However, it’s quite a good deal to purchase a reciprocal membership and then you will get entry into other museums in Phoenix and around the country via the North American Reciprocal Museum Program. Plus, you’ll get discounts on all the other tickets you purchase at the Scottsdale Performing Arts Center, as well as free or reduced tickets on other arts events and festivals (more details).

The Exhibits

On the Thursday night that I visited the museum, I made a bee-line to the exhibit: Marking the Infinite: Contemporary Women Artists From Aboriginal Australia. Every since my trip to Australia this past September, I am a huge fan of Aboriginal artwork.

The multiple pieces, Djorra, by Nyapanyapa Yunupingu struck me by the varied nature of all of them, as well as their similarities to each other and to other works in the exhibit by more well known artists. She explains, these are not special stories. They are just ideas, stories from her head. She is just drawing more branches for the trees.

Djorra, by Nyapanyapa Yunupingu

The Bush Plum by Angelina Pwerle impressed me not only because of its incredible level of detail, but also in the description. Bush plumbs are good for the body and good for the spirit.

Bush Plum by Angelina Pwerle

Last, I really loved Syaw (Fishnet) by Regina Pilawuk Wilson. It’s abstract, but also right on point. Of course, this is what a fish net looks like. I can see it in the details.

Syaw (Fishnet) Regina Pilawuk Wilson

I can’t wait to go back to Australia again. Maybe next year or the year after. Until then, I will just have to appreciate the art from afar.

Photographing at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

When photographing in museums. Be sure to check the policy of the museum on its website or by asking one one of the staff when you arrive. At the SMOCA, photography is permitted with no flash.

My tips for photography at the SMOCA include:

1. Take a picture of the wall plaques that show the artist name and description of the work so that when you get home, you can remember more about it than you took the shot at the museum.

2. Correct the white balance in post. The lighting in museums is notoriously bad. Of course, there is a good reason for this: to protect the art.

3. Don’t photograph everything. You will annoy the other guests and it takes away from your enjoyment in the moment. I suggest you take a circuit around the exhibit making note of your favorite pieces (say top 3) and returning to take photos of just these 3 paintings.

4. When the museum is busy, try to include the other art aficionados like yourself in the photo. I don’t mean selfies. But including people’s reactions and appreciation for the art will add context to your photos and make the story stronger.

What tips do you have for photographing in a museum? Drop me a comment below…