500 Capp Street, San Francisco.

Dismissal of Curator at 500 Capp Street Prompts Outcry in San Francisco

500 Capp Street—the former Bay Area residence of artist David Ireland, which evolved into a site-specific installation over the three decades he lived there and into a monument to his legacy after his death in 2009—is facing pushback from the San Francisco arts community following the dismissal of its head curator, Bob Linder.

According to Artnews, the arts space informed its staff that the decision to lay off Linder was part of a change of direction that the board called an attempt to “re-balance 500 Capp Street future exhibitions and public programs with an enhanced education program that will offer aspiring students, young artists, and art historians enhanced opportunities to learn more about curatorial and artist practice.”  

Board chair Jock Reynolds, the former director of the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut, has cited finances as the reason for 500 Capp Street’s programming shift. He claims that Linder was let go in an effort to curb spending and that focusing more on Ireland’s work rather than that of guest artists in future exhibitions is aligned with the foundation’s mission.

The move has raised doubts about the future of 500 Capp Street. In response to the news, artist Liz Magor, whose solo exhibition “Timeshare” is currently on view there, declared she would pull her works and end the show early; it was slated to run until October. Artist Matt Connors, a New York–based painter, also canceled his upcoming exhibition at the venue. “Artists always have this problem where there are administrative people who are so far out of touch from actual artists,” Connors told Artnews. “I just can’t imagine that someone would think I would continue to do the show.”

Linder’s sudden departure sparked an outpouring of support from local arts professionals. Alicia McCarthy, a member of San Francisco’s Mission School, started a petition that calls for the replacement of 500 Capp Street’s board. The document reads: “Please reconsider these decisions of the past week. Please know that it is not too late to fix this situation and continue with this ambitious world you have been supporting for the last few years.”

It continues: “The entire community treasures the work that has been taking place at 500 Capp Street. There have been different reasons offered to the press for your decision—most of them are vague, and frankly, confusing. The only concern that rings true is financial. . . . If this in fact is the reason for laying off the head curator and ending the exhibitions programming, please fundraise! . . . Everyone understands the stresses of finances, especially those of us in the arts. The undersigned have never been approached to fundraise, either by way of donating artwork to auction, or by being asked to donate money. We believe that the foundation can support itself if given the opportunity.”