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Beloved SF photography museum to close

A Google Street View of Pier 24 Photography on the San Francisco Embarcadero

It's a sad day for Bay Area photo enthusiasts. Pier 24 Photography, an esteemed museum dedicated to the display and contemplation of 20th and 21st century photographic masterworks, announced today that it would shutter its 27,300-square-foot space along the Embarcadero's waterfront.

Andrew Pilara, a former investment banker and president of the Pilara Foundation, which runs the museum, said the foundation would refocus its efforts on philanthropic efforts and will close the museum once its lease expires with the Port of San Francisco in July 2025. Pilara cited a long leasing battle with the port authority as well as the pandemic as reasons for closure.

“After struggling for five years to secure a new lease with the San Francisco Port Commission and its ultimate decision to triple our rent definitely informed our decision to close. Rather than operating with a significantly higher annual budget, we believe that money could be better utilized by local organizations," Pilara said. “The pandemic further revealed the challenges that museums operating in San Francisco face and provided us time to reflect on how we can best serve the city as a whole.”

Going forward, the Pilara Foundation will focus on supporting health care, education and arts organizations.

Since opening in 2010, Pier 24 Photography has offered small by-appointment visits of its renowned collection, which has been ranked among the top 10 private museums in the U.S. by ArtNews and garnered accolades from the art world.

“There is really nothing else like Pier 24 in the United States,” Jeff Rosenheim, curator of the photography department for New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, observed in a 2019 interview with the Chronicle. “The exhibitions, the program, the belief in the medium and the opportunities it has provided to communicate the larger story of the arts in America is undeniable. What they have done is no less than a miracle since it is entirely funded by an individual with a great heart.”

But don't despair if you haven't had a chance to visit the museum yet. Appointments for Pier 24 Photography will reopen in mid-February, and once that happens, would-be visitors will be able to sign up for appointments until the museum's expected closure in 2025, according to a spokesperson for the museum. Visit pier24.org to make an appointment.