Finally! The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco announces a New Director, Colin Bailey, from the Frick Collection
After much anticipation, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) named its new director today, filling the position left vacant since the death of John Buchanan 15 months ago. Colin Bailey, currently associate director and chief curator of the Frick Collection in Manhattan and a noted curator and award-winning author will step into the position on June 1, 2013. Bailey was selected after an exhaustive year-long international search by a 13-member selection committee of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s Board of Trustees. The announcement was made today at 1 p.m. at the de Young Museum at a highly attended press conference officiated by FAMSF president and board chair Diane B. Wilsey (Dede) with guest speaker San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. At today’s press conference it was made clear that Bailey will initiate a new mandate “moving beyond the museums’ reputation as a home for blockbuster exhibitions to focus more on its permanent collections.”
Diane B. Wilsey said of Bailey, who did not attend today’s press conference, “we all agree that Colin has the qualities that will elevate the museums to the next level.” She added that Bailey will keep “the focus on curatorial excellence, art historical relevance, and continued service to our community.” She also added that John Buchanan had been a lot of “fun to work with” and that that Colin was also “fun.”
Wilsey’s camaraderie with the late Buchanan was legendary and the two, whom ARThound dubbed “the dynamic duo” were responsible for the coup that brought the celebrated French Impressionism shows to San Francisco in 2010. (Read about that here.)
Mayor Ed Lee spoke enthusiastically of Bailey’s selection, acknowledging the difficulty of the search process and thanking the Board of Trustees. In a video shown at the press conference, (watch it below), Bailey said the appointment is “a dream come true,” and his purpose in The City will be “to conserve, to show, to educate.”
Normally, ARThound does not repost news from other websites or journalists but Janos Gereben, emailed me his article for the The Examiner (sfexaminer.com) about today’s appointment of Bailey and his reporting on his salary is excellent. Janos has written a series of articles leading up to today’s appointment, which can be found at www.sfexaminer.com. He shared with me that he got Bailey’s earnings at the Frick using old-school reportage—he looked up his tax records which are publicly accessible. Here then quoting Janos…
“From a small but world-renowned private institution, Bailey is moving to a San Francisco city government organization, which is responsible for the de Young and California Legion of Honor museums. He will manage 550 employees, some on The City’s payroll, most paid by the nonprofit Corporation of the Fine Arts Museums (COFAM).
Frick operates on a $22 million budget, has 330,000 visitors a year, against FAMSF’s 1.6 million visitors and $54 million operating budget.
Compensation, at least on paper, doesn’t reflect those differences in size: Bailey’s salary at the Frick was $235,000 in FY 2011, according to the latest IRS report available.
His position here is “Director of Museums, City and County of San Francisco Classification 0963, Department Head III,” which has a base salary under $100,000; he is expected to receive additional funding and perks from private sources and COFAM.”
Today’s press conference was scheduled for noon but began close to 1 p.m. due to late running Board of Trustees meeting, where Bailey was officially approved. The scuttlebutt among the press, impatient for the show to get on, ran the gamut from speculation about the delay in announcing a new director to criticism of Wilsey’s leadership during the recent period of curator dismissals and staff resignations to the organization’s press relations team which has recently been in flux. Several FAMSF curators were in attendance and they too seemed to eagerly await the announcement, one acknowledging that things had been “unsettled.”
At the press conference, Wilsey explained that the board meeting was delayed until today, to give Bailey “the courtesy of talking his own [Frick] board, which he did yesterday.” This, she said, enabled Bailey “to give proper notice.” He will start at FAMSF on June 1, 2013. She did not explain why the trustees’ meeting itself ran late.
Colin Bailey, the new Director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in an introductory video screened at today’s press conference
More about Colin Bailey: Born in London, Bailey earned his doctorate in art history at Oxford University. He specializes in 18th- and 19th-century French art, was named Chevalier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1994 for his contribution to French culture and was promoted to Officier in 2010. He also held a residency under Henri Loyrette, the former president and director of the Louvre in Paris. He has been chief curator of the Frick since 2000, when he narrowly lost the competition for the museum’s directorship. Previously, he worked at the Getty Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Kimbell Art Museum, and the National Gallery of Canada, where he was deputy director and chief curator. He is returning to California 30 years after a fellowship at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu.
He has organized more than two dozen exhibitions, including the recent Renoir, Impressionism and Full-Length Painting at the Frick, many of which have represented new scholarship and have been praised for providing keen insights into individual artists. Other exhibitions include Masterpieces of European Painting from Dulwich Picture Gallery; Renoir’s Landscapes, 1865-1883; and Rembrandt and His School: Masterworks from the Frick and Bailey’s many publications include The Loves of the Gods: Mythological Painting from Watteau to David; Masterpieces of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection; and Patriotic Taste: Collecting Modern Art in Pre-Revolutionary Paris, the book that won the Mitchell Prize.
Colin Bailey and his partner will be spending the Easter holiday here in the Bay Area, having Easter dinner with Wilsey at her home and finalizing the signing on a spacious apartment that the couple will share with their dog. Details on the dog to follow…
ARThound’s most recent coverage of the Frick Collection— ARThound in New York: A Dresden goldsmith and court jeweler works his magic and catalogues it in small booklets—“Gold, Jasper and Carnelian” at The Frick Collection through August 19, 2012