Great Directors

The passing of Peter Marzio this past week has been very sad for those of us who were fortunate to work for him. In the 28-years he was the director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston he aggressively expanded the museum, building two buildings, increasing the collection and the endowment, and the creation of an art conservation department.   It gave me a moment to reflect on the great directors I have worked with and for over the past few years and take a moment to mention what I found memorable about them.

One of the first directors I worked under was Philip Rylands at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy.  Philip Rylands  knew Peggy, and he is equally passionate about the art in the collection and the vision of the collector.

My favorite memory of Philip Rylands was a tour he gave of the Basilica in San Marco, after hours, in December, it was cold and the interior of the basilica was only lit by small lamps and candles. I felt like I had stepped back four-hundred-years and was seeing the basilica as Venetian would have seen it. Philip Rylands is in need of a wikipedia bio page, Guggenheim interns I am looking at you for this.

My internship at Shelburne Museum last summer gave me the chance to meet and work under Stephan Jost. Stephan is very honest and approachable. He gave a fantastic lecture at Winterthur Museum last year about running a museum in difficult economic times and he shared ideas about how he has worked with the staff at Shelburne to determine ways to increase revenues and decrease expenses. Stephan and Shelburne are definitely two to keep an eye over the next few years, I think they are a great match.

Most recently I have had the chance to meet Maxwell Anderson, director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, at the 2010 AIC meeting in Milwaukee, WI. My introduction “Hi, I am Rose Daly, I am your blogger this evening” was right on and we spoke about museums and sustainability, one of my favorite research interests.

I worked for Peter Marzio directly during the month of December while one of his assistants was out of town. He would call the office from the ski lift, ask for his messages, go down the slopes, and then call back later in the day. I don’t image he ever took a real vacation, there was always something or someone who was trying to contact him. Especially in December, when donors may want to donate gifts at the last minute to then claim on their taxes, there was never down time in the office. The perfect holiday antecdote came one morning, when Philippe de Montebello, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, sent a fax to Marzio only saying “Joyeux Noel”. In true Texas fashion, Marzio responded with “Feliz Navidad”