Last week I wrote about the appointment of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new director, Thomas P. Campbell, and I mused briefly on the sort of person it takes to be an art museum director. Sometimes it’s a curator who has risen in the ranks, other times it’s an art historian or museum professional. In any case, art museum directors do move around quite a bit or so it seems. Recently it was announced that the Cleveland Museum of Art’s director Timothy Rub was leaving to take the directorship of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (see: http://www.cleveland.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2009/06/directory_timothy_rub_leaving.html). Just a few days ago, the Cleveland Museum of Art said that Deborah Gribbon, the former director of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, would serve as its interim director while the Cleveland Museum searches for someone to fill the director’s position permanently.
Now, it the news has broken that the Toledo Museum of Art’s director Don Bacigalupi will be leaving to become director of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the “premier national art institution” in Bentonville, Arkansas, envisioned by Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton. Crystal Bridges has yet to set its opening date, but it has a director, according to the Los Angeles Times. Walton announced today that Mr. Bacigalupi, will take charge of the fledgling museum in late October. A scholar of postwar American art and popular culture, Mr. Bacigalupi has distinguished himself at several mainstream institutions. During his six-year tenure in Toledo, he oversaw the addition of an airy glass exhibition space designed by the Tokyo firm SANAA, which has won popular approval and critical raves. Educated at the University of Texas in Austin, Mr. Bacigalupi taught art history at his alma mater before shifting to museum management. He was curator of contemporary art at the San Antonio Museum of Art from 1993 to 1995 and director and chief curator of the University of Houston’s Blaffer Gallery for the next four years. He moved to Southern California in 1999 and directed the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park until his move to Toledo in 2003.
And so these are interesting times. We all are watching intently to see who fills these important directorships.
Curator of European Art