Dec 16, 2019
News

A photography collector’s San Francisco museum faces eviction.

Pier 24 Photography in San Francisco. Photo by Thomas Hawk, via Flickr.

Pier 24 Photography in San Francisco. Photo by Thomas Hawk, via Flickr.

A private museum in San Francisco dedicated to photography has been served a 30-day eviction notice by the Port of San Francisco. Pier 24 Photography, which was founded by collectors Andrew and Mary Pilara and opened to the public in 2010 on a renovated pier in the shadow of the Bay Bridge. The Port of San Francisco is planning to sue the museum to recover late fees and unpaid rent to the tune of $1.3 million. The museum’s lease expired in 2017, and since then it has been underpaying its new rate, $48,321 per month—an increase of about $18,000 from its previous rent.

In a San Francisco Chronicle article outlining the rent dispute, curators and museum directors praised Pier 24 as a unique and essential institution. Neal Benezra, the director of SFMOMA, said:

What Pier 24 has contributed and hopefully will continue to contribute to the cultural life of San Francisco is world-class, unprecedented and extraordinary. [. . .] It would be a catastrophe for San Francisco to lose Pier 24.

Randy Quezada, a spokesman for the port, claimed Pier 24 is seeking exceptional treatment:

All port tenants including nonprofits like the Exploratorium and the city run Navigation Center have to pay fair market rent. [. . .] The Pilara Family Foundation wants special treatment. The port can not grant them an exception. They simply do not want to pay as agreed in the lease.

“There is really nothing else like Pier 24 in the United States,” Jeff Rosenheim, the curator in charge of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s department of photographs, told the Chronicle. The Pilara family’s holdings number about 5,000 images, including works by just about every major photographer, from Diane Arbus and LaToya Ruby Frazier to Catherine Opie and Jeff Wall. The museum listed nearly $38 million in assets in its 2018 tax return. Pier 24 is only open by appointment, admission is free, and its annual attendance is about 25,000.