History + Staff

Overview

Photo: Richard Barnes

Mission Statement

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is a dynamic center for modern and contemporary art. The museum strives to engage and inspire a diverse range of audiences by pursuing an innovative program of exhibitions, education, publications, and collections activities. International in scope, while reflecting the distinctive character of our region, the museum explores compelling expressions of visual culture.

History

The first museum on the West Coast devoted solely to 20th-century art, the San Francisco Museum of Art opened in 1935 under the direction of Grace L. McCann Morley. After her 23-year tenure, Morley was succeeded as museum director by George D. Culler (1958–65) and Gerald Nordland (1966–72). The museum, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1985, rose to international prominence under the leadership of Henry T. Hopkins (1974–86). "Modern" was added to the museum's title in 1975 to describe its purview more accurately.

John R. Lane was appointed director of SFMOMA from 1987 to 1997. Under his direction, the museum established three new curatorial posts — curator of painting and sculpture, curator of architecture and design, and curator of media arts — and elevated the positions of director of education and director of photography to full curatorial roles. Subsequently, SFMOMA undertook an extremely active special exhibitions program, both organizing and hosting traveling exhibitions. In January 1995, SFMOMA opened a new museum facility in the burgeoning South of Market district, designed by renowned Swiss architect Mario Botta.

David A. Ross was director of SFMOMA from June 1998 to August 2001. During his tenure, Ross was instrumental in the acquisition of a number of major works of art for the permanent collection, including 22 seminal pieces by Ellsworth Kelly; 14 important works by Robert Rauschenberg; René Magritte's Les Valeurs personelles, (Personal Values; 1952); two important late paintings by Piet Mondrian: Composition with Red, Yellow and Blue (1935–42) and New York City 2 (Unfinished), 1941; a lead airplane sculpture by Anselm Kiefer entitled Melancholia (1990–91); and Marcel Duchamp's iconic Fountain (1917/1964). Ross was particularly interested in artists exploring the intersection of art and technology, a theme carried out in such exhibitions as Bill Viola, Seeing Time: Selections from the Pamela and Richard Kramlich Collection of Media Art, and the groundbreaking 010101: Art in Technological Times.

Neal Benezra succeeded David Ross as director in 2002, assuming his new role in August. The following year, SFMOMA presented the phenomenally successful Marc Chagall exhibition, hosting more than 115,000 visitors in October — more than any other month in its history. SFMOMA continued breaking records in 2004 with almost 800,000 total visitors and a 36 percent increase in membership, giving it the largest member base of any modern or contemporary art museum in the country. Among the nearly 600 works acquired in 2004, of particular note were Suspension of Disbelief (for Marine) (1991–92), a video installation by Gary Hill; Tide Table (2003), a film and suite of related drawings by the South African artist William Kentridge; and Atrabiliarios (1992–2004), a mixed-media installation by the Columbian artist Doris Salcedo. Prentice and Paul Sack made a promised gift of nearly 800 photographs from their private collection to the Prentice and Paul Sack Photographic Trust.

Visit this timeline to learn more about SFMOMA's history.

Press images of our building are available in our Press Room.

CURATORIAL DEPARTMENTS

Photo: Steven Bollman

Department of Painting and Sculpture

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Department of Photography

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Department of Architecture and Design

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Department of Media Arts

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Department of Education and Public Programs

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Conservation and Library

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STAFF PROFILES

Neal Benezra, Director

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
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Ruth Berson, Deputy Museum Director, Curatorial Affairs

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
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Janet Bishop, Curator of Painting and Sculpture

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
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Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher, Assistant Curator of Architecture and Design

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
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Rudolf Frieling, Curator of Media Arts

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
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Gary Garrels, Elise S. Haas Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
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Corey Keller, Curator of Photography

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
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Sandra S. Phillips, Senior Curator of Photography

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
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Peter Samis, Associate Curator of Interpretive Media

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
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Dominic Willsdon, Leanne and George Roberts Curator of Education and Public Programs

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
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