SFMoMA Slashes Programs, Positions, as Attendance Dips
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is planning to cut programs and positions, citing a decline in attendance. The cuts, which KQED reports were announced at an all-hands-on-deck meeting July 15, are said to encompass some of the institution’s most well-loved and long-running programs, including the Artists Gallery at Fort Mason Center. Inaugurated in 1946, the gallery will close in December. Also on the chopping block is SFMoMA’s film program; initiated in 1937, shortly after the museum’s opening, it will conclude at the end of the fall 2021 season. The institution’s online publication Open Space and podcast Raw Materials will also be terminated at autumn’s end, with the latter being reconfigured as an audio zine for online or in-gallery use.
Attendant to the cuts is the loss of seven jobs. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, at least three of those are coming at the Artists Gallery, which sells, loans, and rents to businesses and interior design concerns works by local artists of all statures, some three hundred of whom are said to depend on the program for their income. As well, the institution’s Modern Art Council faces dissolution. The volunteer-run fundraising group typically hosts the annual dinner at which the museum’s Contemporary Vision Awards are presented. Past winners include photographer Annie Leibovitz, filmmaker George Lucas, and artist Kara Walker.
“The reality is that the pandemic has had a major impact on our operations, exacerbating existing challenges such as reduced attendance, growing expenses, and constrained budgets,” lamented the museum in a statement. “In order for SFMoMA to sustain a healthy institution for our community, we must shift our approach to make these goals more actionable and successful in today’s dramatically changed environment. We are committed to programming that enhances visitor experience, both in our galleries and throughout the museum.”
Attendance at SFMoMA began to decline in 2018 and was dealt a heavy blow by the Covid-19 crisis. The museum furloughed or cut back the hours of two hundred employees and laid off more than one hundred on-call staff in the spring of 2020; later in the year it furloughed most remaining workers. It has brought back only nine regular employees and eleven on-call workers to date.