UPDATE (11:34 a.m.): The DMA has issued a release confirming Anderson’s departure. You can find it at the bottom of the post.
Multiple sources say this morning that Maxwell Anderson is stepping down as director of the Dallas Museum of Art. On the museum chief’s personal website, his CV has been updated to show that he is the Director of Grant Programs of the New Cities Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is said to “shape a better urban future for all by fostering urban innovation and entrepreneurship.” Anderson sits on the board of the New Cities Foundation and brought the organization to Dallas for a summit in 2014. Also on his online CV, Anderson’s directorship of the DMA is listed under “previous positions.” Anderson’s house on Wilderness Court in Far North Dallas is listed for sale on Trulia, and sources say that an emergency board meeting has been called today.
I have a call into the DMA to confirm and am waiting for their response.
If Anderson has resigned, it comes amid a long string of prominent resignations at the museum. Over the past two years, there has been turnover of senior officials in virtually every department of the museum. Critics have also questioned Anderson’s priorities as director of the DMA, and rumors about low museum morale, crimped curatorial budgets, and turmoil in the development department have swirled around the museum for years.
In a phone call interview I had with Anderson two weeks ago, the director defended his record, citing a series of balanced budgets, endowment growth, increased giving related to his new initiatives, and expanded museum attendance thanks to the free admission policy he championed. He admitted that there had been some transition in the development department, but attributed it to hires with little experience raising funds for museums.
The resignation comes at the same time the museum has opened an exhibition of Islamic art taken from the Keir Collection, a renowned collection that Anderson helped negotiate a long-term loan to the DMA. A planned renovation of the front end of the museum is underway thanks to a $3 million grant from the John Eagle family. A ceremonial groundbreaking of the renovation scheduled for last week was postponed at the last minute.
Anderson was named DMA director to much fanfare in 2011 after previously serving as director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
The DMA’s release:
Maxwell L. Anderson Stepping Down as Director of Dallas Museum of Art
To Join the New Cities Foundation in New York City
Dallas, TX—September 28, 2015—Dr. Maxwell L. Anderson, The Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art, today announced he has stepped down as director of the DMA to take on the position of Director of Grant Programs at the New Cities Foundation in New York City. Walter Elcock, President of the Museum’s Board of Trustees, will serve as Interim Director and Board Vice President Catherine Rose will serve as Interim President. Anderson will continue to provide consulting services to the Museum during the transition.
“After nearly four years at the Dallas Museum of Art, I have decided to accept a compelling new opportunity at the New Cities Foundation, among the most innovative urban-focused enterprises in the world,” said Anderson. “It has been a great privilege to work alongside the Board and staff of the DMA, and to play a role in helping shape the Dallas Arts District Foundation as its chairman since 2013. My growing interest in how cultural districts can shape cities led me to this new, exciting opportunity in New York City.”
“Max is a visionary and an innovator, and we are proud of what the staff and Board have accomplished under his leadership,” said Melissa Fetter, Chairman of the Museum’s Board of Trustees. “From increasing and diversifying attendance—rising to over 700,000 annually—to devising and launching DMA Friends, our innovative loyalty program, to securing the fifteen-year loan of the Keir Collection of Islamic Art, to raising over $40 million for the Museum’s endowment and special projects, Max leaves the DMA with an impressive legacy on which we will continue to build. He will be greatly missed.”
During his tenure, Anderson expanded the international visibility and impact of the DMA, while strengthening the Museum’s ties to the North Texas region. By instigating a return to free general admission and pioneering a free loyalty program that has since become a model for institutions for fostering participation and engagement with art, Anderson has renewed the DMA’s longstanding commitment to access. Anderson also oversaw the inauguration of the DMA’s conservation studio, and has built new partnerships with universities in North Texas. Anderson’s support for cultural exchanges with international collections has raised the Museum’s international profile, most recently with the opening of the critically acclaimed exhibition Spirit and Matter: Masterpieces from the Keir Collection of Islamic Art, which has introduced North American audiences to one of the world’s leading Islamic art collections for the first time.
John Rossant, Chairman of the New Cities Foundation, stated, “It is a pleasure to welcome Max to the New Cities Foundation. His experience in working with the Dallas Arts District and his decades of leadership in the cultural sector will add incalculable value to our endeavors.”
Anderson assisted Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings in hosting the 2014 New Cities Summit in Dallas, a program of the New Cities Foundation, and has participated in its other Summits in Paris, Sao Paolo, and Jakarta. In his new role, he will be devising strategies to advance the Foundation’s focus on innovation and digital media.
The Museum is forming a search committee, led by members of the Board of Trustees, to begin the process of appointing the next Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art.