Duct Tape and Goals: The Wild Historical past of SFMOMA’s Well-known Soapbox Derby


Artwork can have many functions—to be lovely, to show, to make us really feel—however generally, artwork is only for enjoyable. Such is the case for SFMOMA’s Soapbox Derby, a raucously artistic race that despatched dozens of artist-designed vehicles barreling by means of the streets of San Francisco in 1975, 1978, and once more final April.

The concept originated with Bay Space sculptor Fletcher Benton (1931-2019) again within the 70s when he proposed that the museum fee a contest to make artwork enjoyable and accessible to the general public and to supply native artists with funding. SFMOMA agreed to the undertaking, and greater than 90 artists have been tasked with designing racers and trophies. Guidelines stipulated that the vehicles “should coast, that they have to not exceed the size of six toes in width and seventeen toes in size, (and) that the automobile incorporates an enough steering and braking system.” Plus, the works must be cost-effective, and the museum provided $100 per automobile and $35 for trophies.

1000’s of viewers lined the 800-foot winding slope of McLaren Park’s Shelley Drive to look at artists like Ruth Asawa, Carlos Vila, and the collective often called Ant Farm compete. Racers have been various in subject material and materials and included automobiles formed like bananas, sneakers, huge fingers, and a yellow No. 2 pencil, the latter of which was constructed by Richard Shaw, the winner within the “Quickest Trying” class of the legendary 1975 competitors and the one alum within the 2022 revival.


Shaw options in “Duct Tape and Goals,” a brief documentary produced by SFMOMA and Stink Studios about final yr’s occasion that follows artists as they assemble their vehicles and sail down the hill. After studio visits and glimpses into the development processes, race day is a riotous, high-energy occasion that sees a variety of mishaps and profitable descents for designs like Windy Chien’s rope dome (beforehand), a googly-eyed backhoe by Lady’s Storage and “Succulent Sally,” a automobile lined in native crops made by a group of town’s gardeners.

Capturing the streets lined with spectators, the documentary is a reminder of what life was like earlier than digital connection grew to become ubiquitous and that artwork might be each playful and foster significant connection. “Artwork isn’t just in a white dice,” writes Tomoko Kanamitsu in regards to the derby. “It may be a automobile made from bread that disintegrates midway down a hill on Shelley Drive. Artwork might be anyplace and in every single place.”

SFMOMA hasn’t but introduced plans to host one other iteration, however you possibly can brush up in your derby historical past by watching “Duct Tape and Goals” and diving into the picture archive within the meantime.


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