Soft Power: A Conversation for the Future

A volume devoted to artists addressing our politically tumultuous times.

Soft Power: A Conversation for the Future accompanies an exhibition of recent work and new commissions by twenty artists from around the world organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. These artists understand themselves as social actors, question their responsibility as citizens, and are active in their role as public intellectuals and provocateurs. Artists featured include Nairy Baghramian, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Carlos Motta, and Xaviera Simmons, among many others.

This expansive catalog includes six long-form essays by curators, artists, and other writers, as well as brief texts and interviews introducing the exhibition artists, and showcases work ranging from video and photography to sculpture, architectural interventions, and performance. Each work of art in its own way considers the collective histories and construction of ideologies and other underlying power structures that influence our world.

About The Author

Eungie Joo is curator of contemporary art at SFMOMA. Manthia Diawara is professor of comparative literature and cinema and head of the Institute of African American Affairs and of the Africana Studies Program at New York University. Adrienne Edwards is curator of performance at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Yasmine El Rashidi, a Cairo-based New York Times contributing opinion writer, covers Egypt and the Arab world, urban life, and the arts.

  • Publish Date: January 21, 2020
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Category: Art - Art & Politics
  • Publisher: Rizzoli Electa
  • Trim Size: 8-3/4 x 11-1/4
  • Pages: 200
  • US Price: $45.00
  • CDN Price: $60.00
  • ISBN: 978-0-8478-6711-0


"...US political scientist Joseph Nye coined the term ‘soft power’, a theory which holds that nations can wield their cultural influence to gain allies more efficiently than by economic or military coercion alone. After nearly 30 years of US co-option, though, the country now finds itself losing most of its friends. ‘SOFT POWER’, curated by Eungie Joo, fittingly turns Nye’s theory on its head, examining how 20 artists ‘deploy art to explore their roles as citizens and social actors.’ Rather than seeking to export values, many of the works on display shine a harsh light on the US’s own socio-political ills." —FRIEZE

"Contemporary artists explore how, as creative forces and active citizens, they can help fix the world in “Soft Power,” a stimulating exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art." —SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER 

"Organized around the concept of artists as civically engaged actors—people who use their platforms to either engage directly in social, political and environmental concerns or highlight those issues in their work—SOFT POWER emphasizes just that: art’s quiet ability to carry ideas around the world." —KQED-AM/Forum