SFMOMA’s Getting a New Director: Christopher Bedford

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Christopher Bedford comes to SFMOMA from the Baltimore Museum of Art. (Courtesy SFMOMA)

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art announced today the appointment of Christopher Bedford as the museum’s new director. Bedford joins SFMOMA from the Baltimore Museum of Art, where he has been director since 2016.

The news comes exactly a year after SFMOMA director Neal Benezra announced he would be stepping down from his role after nearly two decades in the position.

“Bedford has been selected to create change, realize SFMOMA’s values, further the museum’s ability to serve both its local Bay Area community and the international art world and lead the museum towards a successful, purposeful and equitable future,” the museum press release reads.

In an email to the New York Times, SFMOMA board member Pamela J. Joyner directly addressed the optics of replacing a white male director with a white male director, especially after SFMOMA’s much-publicized struggles in the wake of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests and the subsequent departures of five high-level museum employees, including senior curator Gary Garrels.

“Though he is not a woman or a person of color, and I understand how that may be an unexpected outcome,” Joyner told the Times, “I believe he will materially promote the visibility and best interest of those groups based on his past performance.”

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Today’s announcement cited Bedford’s involvement in projects like Mark Bradford’s presentation for the U.S. Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2017 and a Mickalene Thomas commission by the Baltimore Museum of Art that transformed a museum lobby into “a living room for the city.” Before coming to Baltimore, Bedford was the director of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University. He has also held curatorial positions at the Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the J. Paul Getty Museum.

Bedford will step into his new role (formally titled the “Helen and Charles Schwab Director”) at SFMOMA in June.