The San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) has closed its doors after operating for more than 150 years. The final day came this past Friday, July 15, as a deal with the University of San Francisco (USF) was withdrawn, which would have helped save the financially troubled school.

In a statement by USF president, Paul J. Fitzgerald, and provost and vice president of academic affairs, Chinyere Oparah, the university nixed the deal “due to business risks that could impact USF students, faculty, and staff,” and will in-turn open its own art department.

SFAI has a long tenured reputation in the art world. Past teachers include Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko and Dorothea Lange, along with an alumni list spanning Kehinde Wiley, Catherine Opie, Annie Leibovitz and more. Nonetheless, SFAI was one of the many institutions severely impacted during the pandemic, where in March 2020, the school suspended enrollment, let go staff and struggled to maintain a degree program for students.

“The passing of this venerable institution is a loss for the entire art world, especially for SFAI’s friends, colleagues, and SFAI artists,” said members of the SFAI board in a statement.

While the school will no longer continue, the institution will consolidate into a much smaller nonprofit organization that will seek to maintain SFAI’s storied archives and legacy. One of which is the famed 1931 mural, The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City, by Diego Rivera — valued at $50m USD.

The fate of the Rivera piece is currently uncertain, but has attracted potential offers from George Lucas and SFMOMA, amongst others.

Similarly, Pace Gallery will close its Palo Alto location.
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