Charles Desmarais


Charles Desmarais was appointed President of the San Francisco Art Institute in May 2011. Mr. Desmarais served as the Deputy Director for Art at the Brooklyn Museum from 2005–2011, overseeing all curatorial departments, conservation, collections, exhibition management, and the education division. Under his leadership, the museum emphasized the dual goals of scholarship and public engagement, becoming a recognized leader in using new technologies and innovative strategies to increase audience participation. From 1995 to 2004, he served as the Director of the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, revitalizing the institution and spearheading the planning and fundraising for a major new building. From 1988 to 1994, Desmarais was the Director of the Laguna Art Museum in Laguna Beach, California, and in the 1980s, he directed the California Museum of Photography at the University of California, Riverside. An accomplished critic and curator, Mr. Desmarais has written scores of articles and essays, and organized more than 50 exhibitions. As a client and supporter of significant architecture, he hired Stanley Saitowitz to design the award-winning California Museum of Photography in 1989, and in 1991 he organized the first major museum exhibition of the work of Morphosis, the partnership of Michael Rotondi and Pritzker Prize laureate Thom Mayne. In 2003 he commissioned Zaha Hadid to build a new Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, which, upon its opening in 2003, the New York Times called “the most important American building to be completed since the end of the cold war,” and which led to her Pritzker Prize award. Desmarais earned a Bachelor’s degree and an MFA degree in Critical Studies from the State University of New York, Buffalo. He has been a fellow at the Center for Social Innovation at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, and is an alumnus the Museum Management Institute program at the J. Paul Getty Trust.

Follow President Desmarais on Twitter at @sfaiprez.