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A Bent for Bentonville: Crystal Bridges’ Don Bacigalupi Was Considered for San Francisco’s Directorship UPDATED

Don Bacigalupi taking reporters on a hardhat tour of the in-construction Crystal Bridges Museum, May 2011

Don Bacigalupi taking reporters on a hardhat tour of the in-construction Crystal Bridges Museum, May 2011
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

An unimpeachably reliable inside source at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) has unequivocally confirmed to me one part of a rumor that I heard yesterday after I published this post about the surprising administrative realignment and worrisome staff departures at the Crystal Bridges Museum, Bentonville, AR:

My source confirmed that Don Bacigalupi, director of Crystal Bridges, had been in recent discussions with FAMSF about the possibility of his assuming the directorship of that institution, which includes both the de Young Museum and the Legion of Honor. FAMSF has been directorless since the death of John Buchanan in December 2011.

The second part of the rumor, which my source would neither confirm or deny (citing the confidentiality of the hiring process, being led by m/Oppenheim Associates, a search firm for nonprofits) is that Bacigalupi was actually offered the FAMSF job and that his recently announced promotion at Crystal Bridges (likely to have been accompanied by a higher compensation package) was not only a reward for a job well done but also an attempt to keep the headhunters at bay. (I have a query pending about this with Crystal Bridges. I’ll update if and when I get a response.)

UPDATE: Laura Jacobs, Crystal Bridges’ director of communications, sent me this reply, immediately after I published this post:

I do not have any knowledge of any discussions with FAMSF and will reinforce to you that Don’s promotion to president of Crystal Bridges was born from our strategic planning process and our desire to develop specific national and global initiatives. The timing of such coincides with the launch of our second year of operation and the start of our new fiscal year.

I do not know the amount of Don’s compensation, nor will I ask.

According to my source, FAMSF began its search in earnest only about two months ago and is now “very close to getting a new director.” The museum is seeking someone less focused than Buchanan on importing crowdpleasing blockbuster exhibitions and “more intellectually and curatorially oriented,” said my source, who added that FAMSF is currently in negotiations with its leading candidate.

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