Pilara Foundation Changing Philanthropic Focus

January 28, 2023

Chris McCaw, Sunburned GSP#455 (San Francisco), 2010. Ⓒ Chris McCaw, courtesy the artist


San Francisco—The Foundation that runs the highly acclaimed photography museum Pier 24 Photography on the San Francisco Embarcadero announced today it is changing its philanthropic focus and will close the museum when its lease expires with the Port of San Francisco in July 2025.

The Pilara Foundation will close Pier 24 Photography and transition to a granting foundation focused on supporting organizations devoted to healthcare research, education, and the arts.

Pier 24 Photography plans to organize one more exhibition following Looking Forward: Ten Years of Pier 24 Photography, opened in August 2022 following a significant delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Andrew Pilara, President of the Pilara Foundation, explained, “It has been a privilege to work with and serve this community for the past twelve years. One of my greatest joys has been witnessing school groups of all ages excitedly engaging with the photographs on our walls and teachers utilizing our space as an educational resource. It would be an understatement to say this was an extremely difficult decision.”

“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.”

“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. We have determined our greatest future contribution to the Bay Area community would be in this new capacity,” Pilara said.

Since opening in 2010, Pier 24 Photography has produced eleven exhibitions; published over twenty books; partnered with California College of the Arts to establish the Larry Sultan Visiting Artist Program—which brings artists to the Bay Area to work with students and provide free public lectures; worked with Magnum Photos on “Postcards from America”—an expansive five year project documenting the contemporary American social landscape; and collaborated with innumerable contemporary photographers on commissions and exhibition-related projects.

Jeff Rosenheim, curator in charge of the department of photographs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, observed in 2019, “There is really nothing else like Pier 24 [Photography] in the United States. 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.”