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Christopher Bedford. Photo: Christopher Myers.
Christopher Bedford. Photo: Christopher Myers.

Christopher Bedford to Helm SFMoMA

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art today announced Christopher Bedford as its new director. Bedford has since 2016 served as director of the Baltimore Museum of Art. He will assume his new role in June, succeeding veteran director Neal Benezra, who stepped down in the fall after nineteen years at the institution. Benezra’s departure followed a turbulent stretch for SFMoMA, which was forced by the Covid-19 crisis to shutter and furlough employees, and was roiled by accusations of institutional racism in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.

Bedford, who is said to have competed with a diverse array of international candidates, was the unanimous choice of a nine-member selection committee to lead SFMoMA. The museum in a letter to staff announcing his appointment cited Bedford’s continued “commitment to and unique thought-leadership in realizing diversity, equity and inclusion across the breadth of an institution’s policy as well as its program” and to his “capability to innovate and implement systemic change.”

While at the BMA, Bedford implemented a number of initiatives aimed at increasing diversity in the museum’s collection and its staff, consistently hiring and promoting women and people of color and pledging to collect only work by women in 2020. He also worked to connect the museum with its community, in 2019 inaugurating a citywide survey in an attempt to learn how the museum might best serve Baltimore residents and in 2020 amid the pandemic launching a tranche of programs to provide immediate financial relief to the citiy’s artistic community. Bedford came under fire later that year for his plans to deaccession several works by high-profile white male artists partly in order to fund acquisitions of work by underrecognized artists of color from the postwar era. Perhaps less urgently but still of note, Bedford oversaw the appointment of John Waters as a BMA board member and shepherded Waters’s gift to the institution of a trove of artworks, made with the stipulation that the museum name a bathroom after him. That has since come to pass.

Prior to joining the BMA, the Scotland-born Bedford served from 2012 to 2016 as director of the  Rose Museum of Art at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. Before that, he held various curatorial roles at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio.

“The Bay Area is known for its innovation, creativity and forward thinking, and SFMOMA is well situated to lead the positive change so long overdue in our field,” Bedford told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I’m thrilled to be joining the museum in June, and to partner with the staff and community there to develop new ideas, push boundaries, and accomplish remarkable things together.”