Neal Benezra To Leave His Role At The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Neal Benezra at Crissy Field; photo: Karl Nielsen

After nearly 20 years leading the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), Neal Benezra, the Helen and Charles Schwab Director, today announced that he will begin the transition from this role and assist the museum with its succession plan and international search for a new director. Benezra will continue to lead the day-to-day operations of the museum and the extensive DEI and long-term strategic initiatives currently underway, and work closely with the museum’s Board of Trustees to provide continuity until the museum has hired a new director. Spring priorities at SFMOMA include safely reopening the museum to the public when authorized by City agencies, debuting the exclusive United States presentation of the retrospective Nam June Paik and moving Diego Rivera’s monumental mural, The Marriage of the Artistic Expression of the North and of the South on the Continent (1940), for display at SFMOMA on loan from City College of San Francisco.

SFMOMA’s Board of Trustees will immediately establish a formal search committee to seek a new director. Guided by SFMOMA’s mission: to share the art of our time with passion and purpose, the international search will prioritize equitable hiring practices and be anchored in SFMOMA’s core values, including empathy, inclusivity, passion and braveness. The search committee, with input from staff and the museum’s community, will focus on identifying a diverse pool of candidates who share the goal of becoming a human-centered, community-driven museum. As one of the world’s most important museums of modern and contemporary art, SFMOMA holds a collection of over 50,000 objects across curatorial departments of Painting and Sculpture, Architecture + Design, Photography, Contemporary Art and Media Arts, and employs a dedicated staff of nearly 400. Its award-winning building and expansion designed by internationally acclaimed architects Mario Botta and Snøhetta, respectively, is recognized as a Bay Area landmark.

“It has been the honor of my life to serve as SFMOMA’s director,” said Neal Benezra. “I’m so proud of all that we have accomplished, and I am equally grateful for the collaboration and passion that the staff, the Board, our artists and community have shown during my time here. I am inspired by them every day; their love and expansive knowledge of the arts is deeply felt by our visitors and present in the exceptional work they do. While the pandemic has brought many challenges to our field this year, I am confident that our staff will join the new director in forging a new and exciting future. I will continue to advise and lead to ensure that the daily and future-focused work of SFMOMA continues without pause, and do my part to make certain the new director will be able to implement their fresh vision to guide SFMOMA forward.”

“The Board of Trustees joins the staff and the entire arts community in thanking Neal for his nearly two decades of service,” said Bob Fisher, Chairman of SFMOMA’s Board of Trustees. “Neal has led SFMOMA through both groundbreaking and challenging times with poise and grace. I have worked with him for over 10 years and have witnessed his commitment to SFMOMA firsthand. Whether it was galvanizing our community to support the campaign for our new building, securing the funds to stabilize our endowment for the future, ensuring that all of our young visitors could visit SFMOMA for free or presenting a world class portfolio of exhibitions and programs, he has invested his passion, intelligence and creativity in our museum. Neal has been a terrific partner and a wonderful friend. Now it is time to plan for succession and our search committee will begin a values-driven, comprehensive search for a new leader. The next director will take SFMOMA into the future and continue to affirm our role in making the art of our time matter to our communities.” 

Neal Benezra will leave behind a strong history of achievement and collaboration from his nearly 20 years at SFMOMA. Highlights under Benezra’s leadership include a transformative capital campaign that raised $610 million from 1,200 donors, including debt-free financing for the construction of the museum’s major expansion, $245 million in new endowment funding and the endowment of free admission for all visitors age 18 and younger

SOURCE: SAN FRANCISCO MUSEUM OF MODERN ART. Follow them @SFMOMA_Press

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