San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Helen and Charles Schwab Director, San Francisco, CA


Our aspiration is to identify a leader with a commitment to artistic excellence everywhere it resides and to activating SFMOMA as a shared resource of our community that begins in San Francisco and radiates out to the global village. We will search for and hope to attract candidates who have both conventional and atypical professional backgrounds of distinction.

Our Bay Area community is defined by its leadership in transformational innovation. We hope to find a museum leader who inspires a level of innovation and creativity that reflects the best aspects of our local ethos.

We endeavor to attract a Director with a proven dedication to the values we cherish as an organization. SFMOMA seeks to embed equity, inclusion, and diversity in all of its activities and requires a leader focused on those measurable outcomes. Utilizing well-honed communication and managerial skills, we seek a leader that inspires our SFMOMA team to bring their best and true selves to the jobs they perform in service of a shared culture with commonly held goals. We seek a leader with an outreaching charismatic personality, able to respond to and lead change with vision, empathy, humility, and resilience. A forward-thinking, future-oriented perspective and an open mindset are personal attributes that will be key to SFMOMA as we continue our mission to transform the organization from the inside out.

We will measure ourselves and the success of this process in future years if we engage a Director who transforms SFMOMA into a welcoming, sustainable, accessible place for visitors and staff, and is recognized worldwide for thought leadership with respect to identifying, supporting, and disseminating the most impactful art of our time.


While we expect to attract a leader with numerous skills and attributes, it is the view of the Committee that organizations have key priorities at different times during their existence. After individual contemplation and group discussion, we have identified the priority skills we believe to be critical in order to take SFMOMA forward from this point to an even more productive and promising future. These are outlined below:

1. Proven Leadership Skills An exceptional ability to articulate a clear vision, set an associated strategy and inspire talented professionals, an energized community, and enthusiastic supporters to become vigorous allies in driving common goals and clearly articulated results. Innovation is existential. Going forward, SFMOMA will be defined in large part by its ability to innovate. Key indicators of this success will center around the ability of the leader to establish and make visible an aesthetic signature. A creative and bold thinker able to take calculated risks to establish new paradigms will be important to optimizing the future for the museum.

2. Global Art World Stature A well-established art professional with a global art world profile. One who is both deeply rooted in the historical canon and has a proven record at rewriting old orthodoxies. Excellent communication skills will be required to promote SFMOMA and inspire new and existing constituencies to work as our highly valued partners. We imagine full access to a vision-led future across a range of established and yet to be conceived platforms. An ability to attract and lead world-class curatorial talent who create new and urgently relevant knowledge is an essential skill. Working closely with artists is part of our DNA. Our goal is to continue and amplify a focus on collection building. In recent years we have significantly enhanced our organizational ability to tell an inclusive art historical story. We expect to make further inroads along this trajectory. Experience in building collections strategically within the institution and encouraging the community to join in that effort is a desired skill.

3. Collaboration with Artists We seek a leader able to inspire globally accomplished artists to work in concert with SFMOMA to arrive at transformational outcomes in advancing contemporary art.

4. Seasoned and Excellent Manager of People and their Talents The greatest asset of SFMOMA is its people. We seek a Director able to retain and attract the best talent and provide the culture, resources, encouragement, and environment they need to perform and to thrive. We desire a leadership model that both empowers and holds accountable the whole team with respect to their individual and collective contributions towards effectively marshalling SFMOMA's human, financial, and reputational capital.

5. Implements Effective Models of Sustainability In recent years, SFMOMA has reached a size and level of complexity such that going forward, it will be critical to think dynamically and creatively about how to optimize its three major sources of revenue.

    • We would like to attract a leader who excels at fundraising from both existing and new sources. The community in the Bay Area is an especially robust resource for an outgoing professional. The preferred profile is a Director who does not approach fundraising merely as a necessary responsibility, but rather a Director who loves to advocate for mission-critical visionary initiatives that patrons find irresistible.
    • We need an individual with the conviction and courage to try unprecedented strategies for attracting, welcoming, and engaging the broad audiences that characterize the full diversity of the SFMOMA community. New strategies forrevenue generation will be added to the portfolio.The Board fully expects some of these initiatives to work better than others. We will support a resilient leader willing and able to learn from missteps who can then move forward to future success. We seek a lifelong learner willing to venture out of their comfort zone to test new ground in the tangible and digital arenas.

    • We seek to enlist an individual who is adept with the tools of traditional fiscal and endowment oversight to continue a long-standing organizational tradition of prudent financial management, as well as those strategies that will break new ground.

6. Values and Character Driven We seek a Director who leads with authenticity, empathy, humility, and integrity engendering trust and respect. An evolved humanist will hold as a core and central value the notion that we will only be an institutional thought leader if we include the fullest range of voices in our quest to find and share a true telling of the contemporary art narrative.

Other Objectives in Support of Key Priority Skills

    • Assert SFMOMA's role in advancing modern and contemporary art and culture; expand the rules of engagement for artists and audiences. We want to lead, not respond to the current conversation;
    • Establish and embody a transparent, accountable, and collaborative culture, fostering trust and open and productive communications with staff and trustees and across the organization;
    • Assess and strengthen the infrastructure, systems, staffing, and finances that will ensure a sustainable institution;
    • Ensure and promote a diverse and inclusive SFMOMA in staffing, culture, programming, and outreach; continue to define SFMOMA's audiences clearly and expansively; offer and implement compelling strategies to enhance the visitor experience and ensure authentic and diverse audience engagement;
    • Solidify SFMOMA's institutional identity through important programs and acquisitions, and overall visibility regionally, nationally, and internationally;
    • Execute a multifaceted fundraising operation that builds the next generation of community, civic support, and trust along with financial security, while honoring the ongoing support of loyal friends;
    • Invest in strategic collection development (scholarship and collection care support but does not lead collection building);
    • Understand and fully integrate technology as an effective tool for connecting to and working within the museum; capitalize on the region's digital leadership to set SFMOMA apart as an institution on the cutting edge in visitor experience and operations;
    • Develop collaborative relationships with established and emerging members of the region's communities broadly defined that can further enhance SFMOMA's investment in the region, in art, and in culture, as well as with institutional peers and leaders in the global art world.

To learn about SFMOMA, visit www.SFMOMA.org.

Please send applications or nominations to Sarah James and Becky Klein at SFMOMA@PhillipsOppenheim.com.