|MY EYES ARE UP HERE: The Nasher’s Gaston Lachaise exhibit (which runs through February 24) is a good calling card for a new director.
photography courtesy of Nasher Sculpture Center
Jed Morse, the acting chief curator at the Nasher Sculpture Center, is trying to do his job, if only we would allow him to do so. It’s mid-December, and he’s walking us through the Nasher’s current sun-lit exhibit, “Woman: The Art of Gaston Lachaise,” but he’s stopped several times and asked to answer a string of gossipy questions:
When will the Nasher have a new director? Why did Steven Nash leave? Is it gonna be you, are you gonna be the new big dog? Why is it taking so long? Are you hungry? How much do you make? Can I be the curator and you be the director?
He politely ignores our inane queries and answers the pertinent ones, saying that we shouldn’t expect a new director to be named any time soon (and that, no, he’s not a candidate, as he’s enjoying being a curator). That’s at least partly because the market across the country for museum directors is a tight one, with dozens of openings in high-profile gigs around the country (including one at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth). A New York Times story last year noted that more than 10 percent of the top 200 or so museums were looking for a new leader.
That’s partly generational, Morse says, noting that many big-name directors are in their 60s and are retiring. But it’s also because it’s harder than ever to find someone who can combine the curatorial and art history experience a museum requires with the CEO-type skills these big institutions desire.
“Plus, we’re a unique institution,” Morse says. “With our focus on modern and contemporary sculpture, our candidate list is smaller than most. We’re a big draw, but for the right people.” Which is why the Nasher recently hired a search firm to help land its next director.