Whitney Museum director resigns

Sunday, May 18, 2003

— Maxwell Anderson, director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, will step down in the fall after five years in the post, citing differences with the board.

"It has become clear in recent months that the board and I have a different sense of the Whitney's future, in both the scale of its ambitions and the balance of its programming," Anderson, 47, said in a statement Monday.

The decision to step down comes less than a month after the museum canceled plans to build a $200 million expansion by Rotterdam-based architect Rem Koolhaas.

The Whitney, known for temporary exhibitions such as its biennial survey of contemporary art, holds more than 13,000 works by more than 2,000 artists in its permanent collection.

Leonard A. Lauder, chairman of the board, said in a statement that Anderson "brought a clear agenda ... to the Whitney, and made extraordinary improvements to our public profile and our internal operations."

But in an interview with The New York Times, Lauder added: "Max is a brilliant man of many talents. It is unfortunate that there wasn't a perfect match of his skills and ambitions and that of the Whitney's."

Anderson, grandson of playwright Maxwell Anderson and former director of the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, said he would stay on until the fall to give the board time to find a successor.

The museum is also searching for a deputy director. Willard Holmes, who held that post for nine years, resigned in March to become director of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Conn.

Last August, Anderson secured a $200 million donation of works by Jasper Johns, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol and 20 other acclaimed postwar artists, significantly bolstering the Whitney's standing in the fields of abstract impressionism and pop art.

During his tenure, Anderson also established acquisition committees in previously unsupported areas, such as film and video and architecture.

He established the museum's first conservation department and increased public access to the collection. He also helped bring a bill before Congress that qualifies artists for a fair-market tax deduction on donations of their own work.