SFMOMA Eliminates 20 Positions, Citing 35% Decline in Attendance

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The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. (Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

The San Francisco Museum of Modern art quietly announced the layoff of seven staff members on Nov. 10 via a “Letter to the Community” signed by museum director Chris Bedford. Further cuts include 13 open positions that will not be refilled.

The letter, posted to the museum’s press page on Friday, was also sent as an email to SFMOMA staff. In it, Bedford explained that the museum’s visitorship still has not recovered to pre-pandemic levels. Attendance for fiscal year 2023 was about 65% of 2019 attendance, “mirroring reduced foot traffic in San Francisco’s Downtown Core and our city’s broader economic issues,” Bedford wrote.

Unlike previous staff and program cuts, Friday’s layoffs came as a surprise and were effective immediately, according to a source inside the museum. Bedford’s letter said SFMOMA is making changes that are “part of an ongoing holistic approach that embraces both revenue-generating and cost-saving measures.”

Some of those revenue-generating measures include increases to ticket prices and membership rates, along with programmatic changes that “prioritize those exhibitions that have the greatest impact for our audiences,” according to Friday’s announcement. On Oct. 14, adult ticket prices increased from $25 to $30, coinciding with the opening of Yayoi Kusama: Infinite Love, a show with a $10 surcharge and timed entry.

The museum confirmed that the eliminated positions do not contain any frontline staff roles and include a cross-section of departments and management levels. SFMOMA currently has about 350 people on staff. The seven layoffs include union members and represent a reduction of approximately 2%.