Corcoran director Paul Greenhalgh resigned yesterday, and if Corcoran employees want to commiserate, they should look no further than their neighbors on the Mall. In the past few years, the District’s art museums and organizations have experienced a high rate of turnover for their top jobs, especially at high-profile institutions like the Hirshhorn and the Smithsonian Institution.
First, there was Marc Pachter, the director responsible for reopening the National Portrait Gallery, who retired in 2007. He was replaced in 2008 by Martin Sullivan, former chief executive officer of the Historic St. Mary’s City Commission in Maryland. Next came Olga Viso, the director of the Hirshhorn, who left in 2008 for a position with the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Viso was responsible for renewing the museum’s efforts to promote contemporary art in addition to modern art, like the Black Box film space, and for curating the Ana Mendieta exhibit in 2004. She was replaced by Richard Koshalek in April 2009, who came to D.C. from the Pasadena Art Center College of Design. Ongoing throughout these hires was the search for a new secretary of the Smithsonian Institution after the March 2007 ousting of Lawrence Small after an investigation of his finances. G. Wayne Clough was selected as his replacement after a year-long search last March. Last February, the National Museum of African Art brought in Johnnetta Cole to replace former director Sharon Patton. And even though it falls outside the category of museums, the Washington Project for the Arts hired Lisa Gold as its new director last year, after the departure of Kim Ward in late 2008.
In each afformentioned case, the search for a new museum director took at least a year, so don’t expect to see a new Corcoran director any time soon. In the meantime, the Corcoran’s interim director Fred Bollerer will take the reins for upcoming shows, like a Chuck Close exhibition and “30 Americans,” a portraiture show featuring works from the Rubell Collection. The Corcoran recently sold the Randall School to the Rubell Family. The property, which was intended to be a second campus for the Corcoran College of Art & Design, is next to the Capitol Skyline Hotel, which is owned by the Rubells. They plan to turn the school into a museum.