San Francisco, May 27, 2004—The trustees of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) have announced that, after a dynamic and successful nine-year term, Elaine McKeon will step down as chair of the Museum’s Board of Trustees on June 30, 2004, the end of the Museum’s fiscal year. McKeon will be succeeded by SFMOMA Trustee Steven H. Oliver, who assumes the chairmanship on July 1, 2004.
McKeon’s tenure as Board chair spanned a period of remarkable expansion and change for the institution—from the opening of the Museum’s landmark building in 1995 through the dedication of over half the Museum’s galleries to the SFMOMA permanent collection slated for this summer. McKeon directed the Museum on a transformative course to stabilize and secure SFMOMA’s position as a cultural leader both locally and internationally; her stewardship marks a compelling chapter in the Museum’s history.
“I can’t think of any facet of this institution that has not been touched by Elaine’s passionate, committed, and dynamic leadership,” observed SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra. “Elaine leads by example—no task is too small for her personal attention, nor too daunting for her to conquer. She is a persistent and persuasive advocate for the Museum, and I feel fortunate to have had the chance to work so closely with her in the first years of my tenure.”
An SFMOMA trustee since 1986, McKeon served as board president from 1989 to 1994 and as chair since 1995. She stepped into this leading role just after the Museum’s move to its new Mario Botta–designed building and has since brought a decade-long vision of expansion to fulfillment with many ambitions realized and surpassed. Perhaps most visible of these achievements has been the Museum’s exhibitions of great distinction and diversity, including the centennial retrospectives of Alexander Calder and Ansel Adams; critically acclaimed monographic exhibitions of Eva Hesse, Sol LeWitt, and Diane Arbus; groundbreaking presentations of important private collections such as the Anderson Collection of modern art, the Kramlich Collection of media arts, and the Djerassi collection of works by Paul Klee; and attendance record-setting popular successes such as the René Magritte and Marc Chagall exhibitions.
Under McKeon’s direction, the Musuem’s collection has undergone unprecedented expansion, almost doubling in size to more than 22,000 works. Such dynamic growth led the New York Times in 1999 to declare, “No American museum has been as big a player in acquiring the best contemporary art available as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.” This spate of important accessions included critical groupings of works by such modern and contemporary figures as Robert Adams, Matthew Barney, Eva Hesse, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Yves Klein, Sol LeWitt, Gordon Matta-Clark, Robert Rauschenberg, Ed Ruscha, Frank Stella, and Andy Warhol.
McKeon’s leadership accomplishments also include the recruitment of two dynamic directors—Neal Benezra from the Art Institute of Chicago in 2002 and his predecessor, David A. Ross, from the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1998. Careful fiscal discipline ensured SFMOMA’s stability when economic conditions shifted dramatically, and long-term strategic planning for institutional infrastructure brought about the 2002 construction of the innovative Koret Visitor Education Center, which set a new standard for education facilities in the museum world; the doubling in size of the MuseumStore and addition of a MuseumStore in the SFO international terminal; and reconfiguration of the Museum’s entrance and public Atrium that will be completed in June 2004. In addition, this bright era witnessed unparalleled growth of the Museum’s membership to a current total of more than 54,000 members—the largest of any modern art museum in the country.
An Accomplished Successor
Steven H. Oliver, also vitally involved with the Museum as a trustee since 1989, served as Board president from 1995 to 1997. His contributions to the institution have been numerous, perhaps most notably as chair of Phase III of the New Museum Campaign in 1992, a role in which he was responsible for raising the final $5 million of that campaign—a goal which he exceeded, to finish the campaign at $95 million. Former president of the Oakland Museum and former chair of the California College of the Arts, Oliver is president of Oliver and Company, a construction and development firm, and a well-known Bay Area civic leader and contemporary arts advocate.
In addition to his involvement with SFMOMA, Oliver serves as chair of the UCSF Arts Selection Board for the new Mission Bay campus and has participated on the boards of numerous arts organizations, including California College of the Arts (since 1981); the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (2000–2004); the Stuart Collection, University of California, San Diego (since 1998); and as national co-chair for PAC-American Arts Alliance (since 1999). An avid collector, Oliver and his wife, Nancy, developed the Oliver Ranch in California’s Alexander Valley, a working sheep ranch that is also one of the country’s most ambitious private collections of site-specific art. Today it houses seventeen commissioned works by local and national artists such as Ellen Driscoll, Bruce Nauman, Richard Serra, Judith Shea, Robert Stackhouse, and Ursula Von Rydingsvard.
In addition to his diverse art activities, Oliver has been instrumental in the health care field, serving as chair of Alta Bates Health System, vice chair of California Healthcare System, and on the board of Sutter Health System, among other civic stewardship roles. Oliver received a B.S. from the University of California, Berkeley, and an honorary doctorate from California College of the Arts in 1998.