SAN FRANCISCO—Gary Garrels, Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), resigned from his position on Sunday, July 12 after several of his colleagues started a petition about his refusal to exclude art from white artists. His last day at the museum will be July 31.
Garrels was criticized after the staff meeting which was held last week as he was claimed to state, “don’t worry, we will definitely still continue to collect white artists.” Several employees who signed the petition argued that Gary has used and continued to use white supremacist and racist language such as “reverse racism.”
He later apologized to the staff in an email that read:
“I want to offer my personal and sincere apology to every one of you. I realized almost as soon as I used the term ‘reverse discrimination’ that this is an offensive term and was an extremely poor choice of words on my part. I am very sorry at how upsetting these words were to many staff.”
“Gary’s removal from SFMOMA is non-negotiable. Considering his lengthy tenure at this institution, we ask just how long have his toxic white supremacist beliefs regarding race and equity directed his position curating the content of the museum?” read the petition.
He has worked at SFMOMA from 1993 to 2000 and again returned to the museum in 2008 after working in the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. He organized several exhibitions throughout his career.
“Gary is to be especially acknowledged for his passionate collection development, with a particular emphasis on broad diversification and expanded narratives,” said SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra.