This just came in over the news wire. After Colin Bailey, the former director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, resigned last year, there has been a lot of speculation on who would be his replacement. Now we know. The Board of Trustees of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco have chosen Max Hollein as the new director of the largest public arts institution in Northern California, effective June 1, 2016. Current shows at the two museums include a retrospective of Oscar de la Renta’s designs and the first comprehensive show of the Bonnard’s paintings to be held in the Bay Area.
Hollein currently serves as director of Frankfurt’s Schirn Kunsthalle (since 2001) and as director of the Städel Museum and the Liebieghaus Sculpture Collection (since 2006). He is known for prodigious fund raising, innovative exhibitions, management and leadership skills, transforming institutions, building collections, and broadening audiences by making art more accessible. He takes over leadership of the FAMSF which includes both the de Young and the Legion of Honor, two of the most popular art institutions in the United States – with 1.6 million visitors in 2014, the fourth most-visited museums in the country.
Hollein was chosen after an extensive international search by a selection committee of the museums’ Board of Trustees. “We are thrilled to be able to name a new director of such international acclaim to lead the next chapter in our institution’s history,” said Jack Calhoun, Chairman of the selection committee. “Over the past year we cast a wide net to ensure we found a proven leader to strengthen our management and propel our artistic momentum. Hollein’s combined art and finance perspective, his impressive background simultaneously leading three great art institutions in Frankfurt, his fund raising acumen, and his ability to harness technology and new media to increase income and engage audiences, make him a perfect match for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Under his tenure, the Städel Museum experienced its most significant growth in history, and we are excited to benefit from his experience and innovative approach.”
Born in Vienna, Hollein studied art history at the University of Vienna and business administration at the Vienna University of Economics. He is one of the key figures in the European art world, leading three of the most important and innovative arts institutions in Germany. One of his most significant projects was the expansion of the Städel Museum completed in 2012 which doubled the institution’s gallery space and created a new wing for the presentation of art since 1945. His exhibition programs at the three museums have spanned the centuries from antiquities to old masters and modern visionaries to cutting edge contemporary art. He has distinguished the program at each museum to advance scholarship and build new audiences. Hollein began his career at the Guggenheim Museum in New York under the leadership of Tom Krens and curated numerous exhibitions, including the American pavilion at the Seventh Venice Architecture Biennale in 2000 and the Austrian pavilion at the Venice Art Biennale in 2005.
“Leading the esteemed Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco is a great honor, significant privilege and invigorating challenge,” said Max Hollein. “I look forward to further developing these two unique institutions and their loyal following, building on the rich collections, the impressive curatorial expertise and the huge potential for extraordinary programming at the FAMSF. While I am leaving behind three highly successful institutions in Frankfurt, which have developed tremendously in the past few years and which will continue to flourish in the future, San Francisco is one of the most dynamic cities in the world and the opportunity to lead the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco at a time of extraordinary change and a flowering of the cultural community is one that I could not resist.”
Under Hollein’s leadership in Frankfurt, all three institutions saw record levels of attendance and the Städel was named Museum of the Year by the international art critics association AICA. The institutions significantly increased their activities and outreach through a major digital expansion and redefined communication and education programs. In addition, more than 2,800 artworks were added to the museum collections during his tenure. Hollein is a member of supervisory and advisory boards of cultural institutions worldwide, including the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, the Istanbul Modern Museum, the Neue Galerie in New York and the National Gallery in Prague. Hollein was named “Chevalier dans l`Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” in 2009 by the French Minister of Culture and received the Austrian “Medal of Honor for Science and the Arts” in 2010.
“Max has extraordinary curatorial experience and is an entrepreneurial, forward-thinking director. He believes the duty of a museum does not end in the building but extends to the wider community,” said Board President Diane B. Wilsey. “There is a renaissance happening in San Francisco and we have been looking for someone who can capitalize on this energy to take us forward into our next chapter. I am excited for the fresh thinking and ideas that Max will bring to us and to the city.”
As the head of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Hollein will manage over 500 employees at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, two of the leading art and cultural institutions in California. Combined, the museums’ education programs served more than 270,000 children and families last year.
According to The Art Newspaper, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco is ranked fourth in the country for total number of visitors as a result of its world class exhibitions, the quality of its permanent collections, and its outstanding public education programming and outreach.
Asked about his initial goals at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Hollein said: “Besides an emphasis on high-level programming, significant collection building and audience development, further engagement of our public — and an even wider definition of who that is — will be a primary task. More and more museums, especially encyclopedic ones, do not exist as solely a place to visit, but also as a center of cultural education, complex narration and contemporary discourse. Developing this further and implementing it for a diverse audience, within an environment that is already so rich and full of opportunities and flourishing platforms, will be a significant mission.”