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News Flash: Timothy Potts Resigns Kimbell Directorship

This is sudden and unexpected:

Timothy Potts, director of the Kimbell Art Museum for almost nine years, has announced his resignation, while “offering to stay until Sept. 1, to allow time for his successor to be identified and to ensure a smooth transition,” according to the just-issued press release.

The Kimbell had recently announced its selection of Renzo Piano as architect for its new facility (here and here), to be located across the street from its celebrated Louis Kahn building.

If you’ve read this post, about who should (eventually) succeed Philippe de Montebello at the Metropolitan Museum, you know how highly I regard Potts. There’s got to be more to this surprising story than what’s contained in the sanitized press release, linked below:

May 25, 2007

FORT WORTH–The Kimbell Art Foundation announced today the resignation of Dr. Timothy Potts as director of the Kimbell Art Museum, effective September 1st, 2007, by which time he will have been director for almost nine years. Dr. Potts announced his decision at the Kimbell Art Foundation Board meeting on May 22nd, offering to stay until September 1 to allow time for his successor to be identified and to ensure a smooth transition. After this date, he will continue to support the museum as a consultant on selected projects, including the Kimbell-organized exhibition “Picturing the Bible: The Earliest Christian Art,” which opens in November.

Mrs. Ben J. Fortson, President of the Kimbell Art Foundation, commented, “It is with much regret that the Board of the Kimbell Art Foundation received Timothy’s resignation. He has added so much to the scholarly reputation and visibility of the Kimbell. His legacy will be one of magnificent acquisitions and extraordinary exhibitions–all upholding the high standard for excellence for which the Kimbell is known. We will all miss Timothy greatly and wish him the best.”

Commented Dr. Potts, “It has been a great privilege to serve as director of the Kimbell, which I have no doubt is one of the most stimulating and fulfilling positions in the museum world. But after nearly nine years I feel the time is right to move on and for someone else to take over. The museum has entered a new phase with the recent appointment of Renzo Piano to design a companion building on the site adjacent to Louis Kahn’s great masterpiece.

This is likely to be a five-year project and, with the drafting of the museum’s Architectural Program on target to be completed by the end of the summer, September 1st seems a sensible point at which to step aside for a director who will see it through to completion. There’s also a very strong program of exhibitions in place for 2008-09 on Impressionist and Renaissance themes that promise to mark new highs of quality and importance, so the incoming director will have a strong platform on which to build.

“Looking back, I am especially pleased with the acquisitions we have been able to make, and with the quality and scholarship of the exhibitions. Acquisitions have always been at the heart of the Kimbell’s mission, and we have been fortunate to be able to transform some areas of the collection, especially the sculpture and antiquities, and to greatly enhance others, like the northern European paintings, Precolumbian, and Asian arts. No director can ask for more.

“I have enjoyed and learned a great deal from working with the Kimbell’s exceptional staff and board, led by Kay Fortson, all of whom have been consistently supportive of the acquisition and exhibition programs, and other new initiatives we have made. I will leave with only the best of memories and wish them every success in what I’m sure will be very exciting years ahead.”

The works of art acquired during Dr. Potts’s tenure have included: in sculpture, St. John the Baptist by Michelozzo, Virgin and Child by Donatello, Relief Head of Christ attributed to Tullio Lombardo, Isabella d’Este by Gian Cristoforo Romano, Late Gothic Silver-Gilt Virgin and Child (anonymous), and Modello for the Fountain of the Moor by Bernini; in paintings, The Judgment of Paris by Lucas Cranach the Elder, and A Dentist by Candlelight by Gerrit Dou; in antiquities, Head of an Athlete (Apoxyomenos) after Lysippos, and The Death of Pentheus by Douris; in Precolumbian art, 5th-century Maya Jade Belt Ornament, and Codex-Style Cup showing Scribal Training by the “Princeton Painter”; and in Asian art, Bamboo and Rocks by Tan Zhirui.

Exhibitions under Dr. Potts’s directorship have included: Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh; Gauguin and Impressionism; Stubbs and the Horse; Turner and Venice; Mondrian: The Path to Abstraction; as well as three upcoming exhibitions–The Mirror and the Mask: Portraiture in the Age of Picasso (opening in June); Picturing the Bible: The Earliest Christian Art (opening in November); and the first-ever major exhibition of the Art Institute of Chicago’s unrivalled collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art (summer 2008).

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