Henry Urbach, the Helen Hilton Raiser Curator of Architecture and Design at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), is stepping down after nearly five years in the job. Urbach, who ran an eponymous New York gallery before taking the museum position, says he is considering "what the next act is going to look like." His final day at the museum will be May 6.
The SFMOMA position has been a launching pad for museum directors. His predecessor was Joseph Rosa, recently appointed as the director of the University of Michigan Museum of Art; Rosa's predecessor was Aaron Betsky (an ARCHITECT contributing editor), now the director of the Cincinnati Art Museum.
At SFMOMA, Urbach commanded significant real estate, including the architecture and design galleries on the museum's second floor, currently home to "ParaDesign," an exhibition of works that, Urbach says, "until now suffered a degree of disrepute, known in the museum's database as 'other' or 'miscellaneous.'" He also curated "How Wine Became Modern," a sprawling fourth-floor show designed in collaboration with Diller Scofidio + Renfro. That exhibit, which has received rave reviews, closes on April 17—and, Urbach suggests, it might have been a long time before he would occupy the fourth-floor gallery again.
During his tenure, Urbach organized the first SFMOMA shows focusing on Jürgen Mayer H, a German architect, and Tobias Wong, the product designer/provocateur who died last year. He brought hundreds of works into the museum's collection, including a large inflatable "building" by New York artist Alex Schweder that fascinated visitors to the 2009 exhibition "Sensate: Bodies and Design." Urbach also worked with architects to turn the galleries themselves into "a laboratory of spatial research."
A widely published author, Urbach is completing the book Installation Architecture: A Primer, which will be co-published next fall by SFMOMA and Lars Müller Publishers.
This article has been updated since it was first published to reflect Urbach's departure date and the name of his forthcoming book.