Matthew Teitelbaum leaving AGO for Museum of Fine...
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Apr 09, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Matthew Teitelbaum leaving AGO for Museum of Fine Arts in Boston

“The AGO has to get to the point where it is seen as a truly great museum,” said the AGO director whose last day will be June 26


Matthew Teitelbaum, the long-time director of the Art Gallery of Ontario who saw the institution through the most dramatic transformation in its history, will be leaving the museum to become director of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

The move was announced Thursday by the gallery, immediately following Teitelbaum’s confirmation by the Boston museum’s board of directors. Teitelbaum leaves the AGO at the end of June and assumes his new role in August.

Teitelbaum, 59, the AGO’s director and CEO for the past 17 years, is a 22-year veteran of the institution. A Torontonian, Teitelbaum took up the post of chief curator under then-director Glenn Lowry. When Lowry decamped to become director of New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1998, Teitelbaum moved up to the director’s role.

“I’m pretty ingrained,” Teitelbaum joked Thursday, speaking from Boston, where his appointment was to be announced. “They kept me around for a long, long time.”

Teitelbaum said the Boston opportunity had taken him by surprise. “I was not looking for a job in any way,” he says. Recent months had Teitelbaum absorbed in the completion of a new three-year strategic plan for the AGO, which was approved at a board meeting in March.

“I was completely focused on what I truly believe,” he said. “The AGO has to get to the point where it is seen as a truly great museum. And by that, I mean seen internationally as such. And it’s been getting closer and closer and closer.”

Teitelbaum, with his curatorial background, was a hands-on director when it came to content and exhibitions, said Maxine Granovsky Gluskin, president of the AGO’s board of trustees. Accolades for recent hits like Ai Weiwei and Jean-Michel Basquiat and the soon to open Emily Carr show fall squarely at his feet, she said.

“Matthew transformed the way we put on exhibitions, and the kinds of exhibitions we did,” she said. “We’re really thrilled for him. It’s an amazing opportunity. But we’ll miss him.”

The Boston opportunity “happened pretty quickly,” he said. He resisted intitially, he said, but after several visits “I got very excited by what it would mean to try something new, what it would mean to engage with a collection that is truly international, that has collections all over the world.”

Teitelbaum earned a salary of $388,529 last year. His counterpart in Boston, Malcolm Rogers, who is retiring as director after 19 years, had a total annual compensation of more than $760,000 U.S., according to the Boston Globe.

As he assumes the directorship there, he’s also on familiar ground. Teitelbaum was a curator at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art when he took his first job at the AGO.

“When I thought about coming back to Boston, I thought of all the things I had done with students in the area,” he said. “The way that the (Museum of Fine Arts) could connect to places like Harvard or MIT — that was all very compelling to me.”

He leaves behind an institution still growing into its spectacular new building, opened in 2009 after a $276 million reinvention by the architect Frank Gehry.

Teitelbaum, who stewarded the fundraising and building campaign to its successful end (the debt for the project was retired in 2012), said the building was one of three things he hoped would be seen as his legacy.

“But it really is third,” he said. He cited his handling of the gift of the Thomson collection in 2002, an array of more than 2,000 objects and paintings ranging from medieval Europe to 20th century Canadian icons like the Group of Seven, a collection that defines the museum’s identity, as one of his major accomplishments.

But at the top of the list? “That the AGO is more of a convening space in our city for the experience of contemporary life though the lens of art,” he said. “A building is just a platform for other things to happen. I hope people feel that the AGO is more of a place for them, whoever they may be.”

Teitelbaum is the most recent in a string of high-profile departures in Toronto cultural organizations. Royal Ontario Museum director Janet Carding resigned in November last year, while Janice Price, the founding CEO of the Luminato Festival, quit in February.

Toronto Star

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