A new director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco was named Wednesday, filling the position left vacant since the death of John Buchanan 15 months ago.
Colin Bailey, currently associate director and chief curator of the Frick Collection in New York, will take over an organization that’s shifting its focus from a series of blockbuster exhibitions to the museums’ permanent collections. The organization comprises the de Young and Legion of Honor museums.
President and board Chairwoman Diane B. Wilsey said of Bailey, who did not attend the announcement, that, “We all agree that Colin has the qualities that will elevate the museums to the next level.” She said Bailey will “focus on curatorial excellence, art historical relevance and continued service to our ?community.”
Wilsey has been running the organization during the search for a permanent director, and there have been curator dismissals and staff resignations during that time.
Mayor Ed Lee applauded Bailey’s selection, saying he knows how difficult the search has been.
Speaking in a video shown at the news conference, Bailey said the appointment is “a dream come true” and his purpose in The City will be “to conserve, to show, to educate.” He notified the Frick of his departure Tuesday.
From the small but world-renowned Frick institution, the 57-year-old Bailey is moving to a major city government organization. He will manage 550 employees, some on The City’s payroll but most paid by the nonprofit Corporation of the Fine Arts Museums.
The Frick operates on a $22 million budget and has 330,000 visitors a year versus the FAMSF’s 1.6 million visitors and $54 million budget.
Bailey’s salary will come from The City and the Corporation of the Fine Arts Museums, and it’s expected to exceed what the Frick paid him; his salary there was $235,000 in fiscal year 2011, according to the latest IRS report available.
Having responded to previous questions about the organization’s governance by saying, “We are a public institution and we are totally transparent,” Wilsey said the yearlong search by a committee of 13 and considerations of eight final candidates was “like herding cats” while keeping the candidates’ identities secret.
Born in London and schooled at Oxford University, Bailey has been chief curator at the Frick since 2000. Previously, he worked at the Getty Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Kimbell Art Museum and the National Gallery of Canada.
Bailey is expected to start his new position June 1.