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News Flash: Timothy Rub Quits Cleveland for Philly UPDATED

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Timothy Rub in the entrance hall of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Having only this weekend opened its new East Wing designed by Rafael Viñoly, the Cleveland Museum dropped a bombshell in my inbox at 9:25 p.m. today (Sunday):

The Cleveland Museum of Art today announced the decision of its Director and Chief Executive Officer, Timothy Rub, to resign after three years of service to the institution. In September, Rub will take up the position of George D. Widener Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, succeeding the late Anne d’Harnoncourt.

“It has been a great privilege to serve as director of the Cleveland Museum of Art, as it is rightfully considered one of America’s finest museums with a great collection, strong financial resources, a commitment to excellence and loyal support from the community it was founded to serve,” said Rub. “With the remarkable transformation of its physical fabric now underway, the museum will, I am sure, continue to prosper in the future.”

“I am deeply honored by having been chosen to lead the Philadelphia Museum of Art,” said Rub. “This was a very personal decision because I have always felt a deep fondness for Philadelphia and its wonderful museum. It is the place where, as a young adult, I first looked at art in a meaningful way and considered a career in museums. At the same time, the decision was also a very difficult one to make as it means leaving a great museum and a community to which I have become deeply attached.”

The news hit the Cleveland Plain Dealer a couple of hours earlier, in a piece by Steven Litt, who reported:

Rub’s decision, coming after a productive but relatively short tenure…, caught trustees of the Cleveland museum off guard.

“It was a total surprise,” said Alfred Rankin Jr., president of the Cleveland museum’s board of trustees. “Surprise is probably an understatement.”

Shock may be more like it, although Clevelanders had previously heard their man mentioned as a possible candidate for the Metropolitan Museum’s directorship. At that time, I had asked:

Can he really get up and leave Cleveland before its renovated and expanded facility is functional?

I guess the answer is yes: The newly opened space is just the first of three new Viñoly-designed wings in the works.

Rub’s announcement comes in the wake of the museum’s May 4 announcement of budget cuts that included a “stepped reduction” in the director’s salary. Will he now do better than the previously underpaid d’Harnoncourt? No one would say what his salary will be, “citing Rub’s request to keep it confidential,” according to a report by the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Peter Dobrin.

Litt noted that “the sudden change adds a jolt of uncertainty” to Cleveland’s capital projects:

Work on the Cleveland expansion and renovation will continue until late this year. Trustees will then vote on whether to build the next major phase, including the structures for a new West Wing, a new office area and a vast, skylighted atrium.

Trustees have said they are determined to finish the project by 2013, a slight delay from the original deadline of 2012.

While Cleveland is in shock, Philadelphia is jubilant. Gerry Lenfest, who plans to step down soon as the Philadelphia Museum’s board chairman, told Dobrin:

I think he’ll hit the ground running with his experience and background, and it’s a real coup to get him.

But can they keep him?

This latest instance of museum-hopping gave me traumatic flashbacks to another move of a museum superstar from a community that had just come to know and love him—William Griswold‘s even speedier departure from Minneapolis to the Morgan. Bill has asserted that the New York post is his dream job and that no other position could ever tempt him. No such assurances have yet been heard from Timothy.

UPDATE: Was this story another NY Times embargo-breaker? The Inquirer’s Dobrin, in his ArtsWatch blog, suggests yes. I myself couldn’t find the Times story on its website, either on its arts page or on its front page (which posts breaking news). But Dobrin’s piece links to Carol Vogel’s. Could it be that, called on its jump-the-gun scoop, the Times took it down? (It WAS accessible, however, by searching for Rub’s name on the Times’ site.)

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