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Secretary of the Smithsonian G. Wayne Clough will retire in October 2014 after six years there, the institution announced this morning. He has held the position since July 2008, when he succeeded Acting Secretary Cristián Samper.
Clough has presided over a great period of growth for the Smithsonian, a trend that has run counter to the broader recession. The Smithsonian has also resisted the boom-and-bust period of expansion and contraction that has swept museums in the last decade. Clough’s tenure, though, has provoked controversy, especially regarding his 2010 decision to order the removal of a video artwork from a LGBT portraiture show.
That artwork—-David Wojnarowicz‘s 1987 video, “A Fire in My Belly”—-was the focal point of a campaign launched by a conservative advocacy group against the National Portrait Gallery exhibit, “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture.” Museums rallied behind the late artist’s work, which was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art and displayed by many more museums.
Clough’s role in the debacle earned him a formal rebuke from the Smithsonian in 2011. Earlier this year, though, Smithsonian leaders indicated that they had no complaint with Clough’s leadership. At a January 2013 meeting of the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents, board chair France A. Córdova announced that the Smithsonian was sticking with Clough.
The Smithsonian registered more than 30 million visits in 2012—-a high-water mark in the last decade. At the same January meeting, Clough said that he was well on his way to meeting a five- to seven-year fundraising target of $1 billion.
The Smithsonian said today that Clough has raised $893 million from private contributors, including a record-setting $223 million in 2012.
“When I became Secretary in 2008, I believed strongly that the Smithsonian had enormous untapped potential, especially in digital technology, to reach millions of people and serve as a resource for those who cannot visit Washington,” Clough said in a press release. “I am confident that with our initiatives underway in bioconservation, education, digitization and fundraising, this is the right time to announce my plans for next fall so that an orderly transition can begin.”
The Smithsonian will form a search committee to find Clough’s replacement. Regent John McCarter Jr. will chair that committee, with regent Shirley Ann Jackson serving as vice chair.
Photo via Smithsonian