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Sudden Departure: Max Anderson Precipitously Leaves Dallas Museum Directorship

This is not how amicable resignations usually happen:

The Dallas Museum of Art today announced that its director of less than four years, Maxwell Anderson, “has stepped down [emphasis added] as director of the DMA to take on the position of director of grant programs at the [Paris-based] New Cities Foundation in New York.”

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Maxwell Anderson

In other words, he has already left, with no director’s search, let alone a named successor, in place. The DMA is only now forming its search committee, with Walter Elcock, its board president, serving as its interim director, and board vice president Catherine Rose serving as interim president. Anderson “will continue to provide consulting services to the Museum during the transition,” according to the DMA’s above-linked announcement.

Max made his own cryptic announcement on Twitter:

In the announcement, the DMA did describe in detail Anderson’s “impressive legacy on which we will continue to build. He will be greatly missed.” His new gig will return him to his native New York, which could be part of its attraction to him. “See you on the Hudson,” was his email’s cheery sign-off to me.

The last time that Max, a life-long museum professional, took a job that was not at a museum came when he precipitously left his directorship at the Whitney Museum (1998-2003), after differences with its board, to become a principal at AEA Consulting, an arts, culture, and entertainment advisory firm (2004-06). (He omitted that part of his career from the bio on his own website.) The Whitney Museum’s new handbook is notable for almost completely writing Max out of the museum’s history (inappropriately, in my view).

Before directing the DMA, Anderson had a five and a half-year stint as director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. His pre-Whitney tenure at the Art Gallery of Ontario was similarly brief—1995-1998.

Max wrote me this today, in response to my emailed queries about whether differences with the board or other disagreements had led to his sudden departure:

I am not aware of disagreements: Everything on my watch had a board task force’s approval, and we just adopted a new budget—our fifth balanced budget in a row.

Once I let board leadership know about the New Cities offer last week, it was decided to move ahead with an announcement today (not on a sleepy Friday!).

I think that this announcement would have woken all of us up, even on a dormant Sunday!

Although he wrote that he was “not aware of disagreements,” Anderson is presumably aware of of this morning’s D Magazine report by Peter Simek about senior staff departures and “rumors about low museum morale, crimped curatorial budgets, and turmoil in the development department [that] have swirled around the museum for years.”

I suspect we’ll soon hear more about today’s sudden development from the Texas scribe tribe (and even, perhaps, from Max).

The Dallas Morning News ended Robert Wilonsky‘s more-to-come report on the departure by embedding a video that didn’t count among Max’s finest accomplishments—his starring role in the Bruno Mars part (complete with hair curlers) in an “Uptown Funk” music-video spoof.

an ArtsJournal blog