Art of noise

A new exhibition celebrates the designs that shape our experience of music.

From concert posters to record albums, phonographs to digital music players, handheld radios to surround sound, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s latest exhibition Art of Noise takes visitors on an exploration of how design has shaped our relationship with music over the last century.


Featuring a new experiential artwork by Design Indaba alum and renowned sound designer Yuri Suzuki, the Art of Noise exhibition will be on show until 18 August 2024. Drawn largely from SFMOMA’s collection, the exhibition features a staggering 800 artworks: 550 posters, 150 album covers, 100 design objects and four large-scale installations that merge inventive design and audio.


Commissioned specifically for the exhibition, ‘Arborhythm’ by Suzuki is both a seating structure and a sonic landscape that remixes sounds of San Francisco's natural and urban surroundings into an ambient soundtrack. Captured from around and beyond the city, more than 100 field recordings - featuring foghorns and ocean waves, cable cars and sea lions - playfully connect listeners to their environment. Suzuki aims to ‘replenish people's attention through their unconscious, cognitive process and help them relax and de-stress.’


The exhibition opens with an immersive installation of works of graphic design such as concert posters, album covers, music advertising and fliers for show, before moving into the largest space which features a new interactive seating environment designed by a Stockholm-based studio, teenage engineering, with custom-designed devices for audio playback embedded in the furniture. Thereafter are nine tables displaying industrial designs for listening to music, dating from the early 1900s to 2023, including a jukebox, radios, hi-fi systems, speakers and headphones. Art of Noise also features two dedicated galleries offering cutting-edge audio experiences.


‘Design has the ability to revolutionise and strengthen our relationship to sound. This unique exhibition shows how trailblazing graphics and design objects fuel our bonds to music and help us develop lasting memories of fleeting musical phenomena,’ said Christopher Bedford, Helen and Charles Schwab Director of SFMOMA. ‘Art of Noise also manifests our goal to create captivating exhibitions that connect contemporary culture with art and design from a wide range of makers and perspectives.’



Yuri Suzuki on finding order in the noise



Under pressure


Festival of colour


Ebb and flow