Speculations Realized and Rumors Still Lingering
There was a great discussion a while back on Art World Salon (which is working on expanding its field of commenters, by the way) about the reasons we see such large number of vacancies among the top positions in American museums. As Marc Spiegler noted in the main post:
[I]t seems the problem lies in the way that the job has evolved through mission creep over the years. In addition to the classic connoisseurship required, fund-raising and business skills have become a big part of the job, as has the ability to deal with major construction projects and foreign governments. [...] So it seems today’s ideal museum-director candidate would have a PhD in Art History, an MBA, plus several years of Foreign Service and corporate experience under the belt. It’s a tall order, which may explain why it’s so frequently found to be difficult to fulfill, especially outside the top institutions. [...] perhaps it’s time to widen the notion of how museums are led: Splitting the job into business and art functions, rather than desperately seeking candidates combining all the skills required in the modern museum era and paralyzing the institution until the ideal candidate surfaces.If Marc ever suggests he knows tomorrows lottery numbers, you might want to invest a stack of cash on his picks. From today's New York Times:
In a move that seems likely to shake up its contemporary art programming, the Museum of Modern Art has hired Kathy Halbreich, the adventurous director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, as an associate director.The Times article continues to explain why this is great news for MoMA: the energy Ms. Halbreich is likely to breathe into its Contemporary programming gives us all reason to cheer. More than that, though, the timing of this split of responsibilities seems perfect given some of the rumors flying around about MoMA's future plans to expand significantly. Particularly in light of this notion:
Ms. Halbreich, who said in March that she was retiring from the Walker, will work with the Modern’s curators on innovative programs crossing a range of disciplines and keep the museum abreast of developments in contemporary art. Staff members were informed of her hiring yesterday, and she is expected to start work in February.
For months, rumors have been circulating that Ms. Halbreich, 58, was being courted to succeed Glenn D. Lowry, the Modern’s director for the past 12 years, or to take over from Alanna Heiss, the director of the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City, Queens, which became an affiliate of the Modern in 1999.
But MoMA chose instead to create a position for Ms. Halbreich that will give her influence in organizing exhibitions, planning performances and making acquisitions without assuming directorial responsibilities like fund-raising or capital expansions.
Having just overseen a $73.8 million expansion at the Walker, Ms. Halbreich said she sympathized with the Modern as it endured harsh criticism about its newly expanded home. For one thing, she said, a capital project can be so consuming that it diverts energy from programming. “Buildings require so much intellectual and financial resources it is almost impossible to be ambitious artistically,” she said.If the rumors are true, this move might ensure that any expansion project won't distract from the programming, which is good news for us.