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SFMOMA Cuts Several Programs and Staff Positions, Citing Declining Attendance

At an all-staff meeting today, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art leadership announced plans to cut several programs, an SFMOMA source confirms.

One such program is the museum’s Artists Gallery, which will close its Fort Mason location in six months. Open since 1946, the Artists Gallery sells and lends out artwork by over 300 contemporary Bay Area artists, many of whom have come to depend on it as a source of income.

The museum will also discontinue its online publication Open Space, which publishes interdisciplinary work from artists and writers (including this reporter, who wrote a piece for Open Space in 2017). And SFMOMA’s Raw Material podcast will be reimagined as an “audio zine” that will interact with exhibitions inside the museum.

The museum’s film program will also be discontinued at a later, currently unspecified date.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has grappled with declining attendance since at least 2018, a trend the pandemic only exacerbated. Seven staff positions will be cut in all. In March 2020, SFMOMA laid off or furloughed over 300 employees; it is unclear how many of those employees were hired back after the museum reopened.

When asked for comment, SFMOMA emailed KQED a statement from museum leadership:

We are committed to our mission of being a dynamic center for modern and contemporary art, engaging and inspiring a diverse range of audiences. 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. Our goals remain unchanged, SFMOMA will 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. We thank our members and visitors for their continued support, and look forward to introducing these changes as we move forward.

This story is developing and will be updated. 

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