San Francisco Museum of Fashionable Artwork Names New Director

One 12 months after the resignation of its longtime chief, Neal Benezra, the San Francisco Museum of Fashionable Artwork on Wednesday introduced his successor, Christopher Bedford, the director of the Baltimore Museum of Artwork.

Bedford, who will begin in June, has championed variety via acquisitions to the gathering and wage will increase throughout his tenure in Baltimore. He made the controversial determination in 2020 to promote three main works to diversify its assortment, however reversed himself in response to complaints from former Baltimore Museum trustees and neighborhood members. In 2019, he introduced that for a 12 months, the museum would only acquire work by girls artists.

He involves SFMOMA at a time when the establishment is therapeutic from the difficult departure of its prime curator, Gary Garrels, in 2020 after he was accused of racism. Benezra publicly apologized and the museum has since established a “Core Staff” and undertaken a strategic plan centered on variety, fairness and inclusion.

“The SFMOMA job description struck a serious chord, notably in its demand for values-based management, dedication to systemic change and aspirations for variety, fairness and inclusion,” Bedford, 44, mentioned in an e mail.

“These are deeply shared ideas and commitments of my very own,” he added. “I can not wait to start.”

In a letter to the employees explaining its “unanimous” collection of Bedford, the search committee mentioned it discovered his monitor report round variety “distinctive,” and that this space “has been on the core of Chris’ work, informing all endeavors and driving systemic change throughout a museum’s tradition and output.”

The search committee’s letter praised Bedford’s work as a curator on initiatives akin to Mark Bradford’s U.S. Pavilion on the 2017 Venice Biennale; SFMOMA’s Joan Mitchell 2021-22 exhibition, which was a collaboration with the Baltimore Museum; and Mickalene Thomas’s 2019 commission for the Baltimore Museum, which reworked the museum’s two-story East Foyer right into a front room for town, crammed with the work of native artists.

The brand new job is a step up for Bedford, who till now has run a museum with an annual finances, in 2021, of $16.9 million and a employees of 182. Its endowment, as of Dec. 31, was $197.6 million; it has no deficit.

The San Francisco Museum of Fashionable Artwork has a finances of $53.4 million, a employees of 360 and an endowment of $500 million; it too has no deficit, in keeping with a spokesperson.

At a time when museums all around the nation are attempting to include extra inclusivity into their programming, hiring and management, the appointment of Bedford, a white man, is more likely to meet with some criticism.

However Pamela L. Joyner, a member of SFMOMA’s board who led the search committee with the museum’s president, Diana L. Nelson, mentioned she felt strongly that Bedford was the precise particular person for the job.

“Chris has completed the laborious work and has a confirmed report of success in making a extra inclusive artwork historical past,” Joyner mentioned in an e mail message. “Leveling the enjoying discipline takes a boldness for which he’s identified.”

“Although he isn’t a lady or an individual of coloration, and I perceive how which may be an sudden final result,” added Joyner, who’s herself Black, “I imagine he’ll materially promote the visibility and greatest curiosity of these teams primarily based on his previous efficiency.”

Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Basis, who has led the charge on variety points, mentioned he felt snug with the collection of Bedford. “Whereas I’m disenchanted {that a} various candidate wasn’t chosen,” Walker mentioned in a phone interview, “no museum chief is extra dedicated to variety than Chris Bedford.”

An individual near the job search who spoke on situation of anonymity as a result of they weren’t approved to disclose its particulars, mentioned that the SFMOMA place was not a simple promote to candidates, given San Francisco’s comparatively low-profile up to date artwork scene and the tepid curiosity in artwork patronage amongst Silicon Valley moguls. The Gagosian gallery not too long ago closed in San Francisco).

Born in Scotland and raised in the US and England, Bedford acquired his bachelor’s diploma from Oberlin School and his grasp’s in artwork historical past and museum research via the joint program at Case Western Reserve College and the Cleveland Museum of Artwork.

He additionally studied within the doctoral applications in artwork historical past on the College of Southern California and on the Courtauld Institute of Artwork on the College of London. Earlier than coming to Baltimore in 2016, Bedford served as director of the Rose Artwork Museum at Brandeis College, and earlier than that, held curatorial positions on the Wexner Heart for the Arts at Ohio State College, the Los Angeles County Museum of Artwork and the J. Paul Getty Museum.

In Baltimore, Bedford has developed a reputation as a disrupter, akin to when he introduced his yearlong dedication to solely purchase work by feminine artists.

“You don’t simply buy one portray by a feminine artist of coloration and grasp it on the wall subsequent to a portray by Mark Rothko,” Bedford mentioned on the time. “To rectify centuries of imbalance, it’s important to do one thing radical.”

Some noticed the transfer as showmanship, arguing that feminine artists ought to be acquired by museums frequently, as a matter after all.

Equally, many noticed Bedford’s determination to promote works by Brice Marden, Clyfford Nonetheless and Andy Warhol at public sale — to fund acquisitions of artwork by individuals of coloration and staff-wide wage will increase — as a foolhardy transfer to attain politically appropriate factors. Whereas the museum had beforehand deaccessioned works, on this case, “Baltimore was promoting masterpieces,” Arnold Lehman, a former director of each the Baltimore museum and the Brooklyn Museum, said at the time.

How Bedford’s appointment will go over with SFMOMA’s employees members stays to be seen. Garrels, the chief curator, was seen by many there as an objectionable consultant of the established order after he was reported to have said in a Zoom assembly, “Don’t fear, we will certainly nonetheless proceed to gather white artists.” Amid the uproar that adopted — and regardless of responding that his feedback had been “slightly bit skewed” — Garrels resigned shortly thereafter.

Bedford mentioned he plans to be taught from SFMOMA’s employees and “to take time to grasp the establishment.”

“I do know that I’m not the person who some could have anticipated or hoped for as the selection for SFMOMA’s new director,” Bedford mentioned. “I respect these views and am coming to the place with nice humility.

“What I can say is that I’ve made the associated values of variety and fairness the core of my work over the previous 15 years, from collection-building to exhibition-making, employees to board development and neighborhood engagement,” he added. “I really feel strongly about bringing these values and convictions to my new position at SFMOMA. This consists of guaranteeing that a variety of voices are on the desk.” San Francisco Museum of Fashionable Artwork Names New Director

Fry Electronics Team

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