Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Announce Max Hollein as Director

Max Hollein. Photo by Gaby Gerster

Max Hollein. Photo by Gaby Gerster

Trustees of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Select Max Hollein as Director

SAN FRANCISCO (March 22, 2016) – The Board of Trustees of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco today chose Max Hollein as the new director of the largest public arts institution in Northern California, effective June 1, 2016.

Hollein currently serves as director of Frankfurt’s Schirn Kunsthalle (since 2001) and as director of the Städel Museum and the Liebieghaus Sculpture Collection (since 2006). He is known for prodigious fund raising, innovative exhibitions, management and leadership skills, transforming institutions, building collections, and broadening audiences by making art more accessible. He takes over leadership of one of the most popular art institutions in the United States – with 1.6 million visitors in 2014, the fourth most-visited museums in the country.

Hollein was chosen after an extensive international search by a selection committee of the museums’ Board of Trustees.

“We are thrilled to be able to name a new director of such international acclaim to lead the next chapter in our institution’s history,” said Jack Calhoun, Chairman of the selection committee.  “Over the past year we cast a wide net to ensure we found a proven leader to strengthen our management and propel our artistic momentum. Hollein’s combined art and finance perspective, his impressive background simultaneously leading three great art institutions in Frankfurt, his fund raising acumen, and his ability to harness technology and new media to increase income and engage audiences, make him a perfect match for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Under his tenure, the Städel Museum experienced its most significant growth in history, and we are excited to benefit from his experience and innovative approach.”

Born in Vienna, Hollein studied art history at the University of Vienna and business administration at the Vienna University of Economics. He is one of the key figures in the European art world, leading three of the most important and innovative arts institutions in Germany. One of his most significant projects was the expansion of the Städel Museum completed in 2012 which doubled the institution’s gallery space and created a new wing for the presentation of art since 1945. His exhibition programs at the three museums have spanned the centuries from antiquities to old masters and modern visionaries to cutting edge contemporary art. He has distinguished the program at each museum to advance scholarship and build new audiences. Hollein began his career at the Guggenheim Museum in New York under the leadership of Tom Krens and curated numerous exhibitions, including the American pavilion at the Seventh Venice Architecture Biennale in 2000 and the Austrian pavilion at the Venice Art Biennale in 2005.

“Leading the esteemed Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco is a great honor, significant privilege and invigorating challenge,” said Max Hollein. “I look forward to further developing these two unique institutions and their loyal following, building on the rich collections, the impressive curatorial expertise and the huge potential for extraordinary programming at the FAMSF. While I am leaving behind three highly successful institutions in Frankfurt, which have developed tremendously in the past few years‎ and which will continue to flourish in the future, San Francisco is one of the most dynamic cities in the world and the opportunity to lead the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco at a time of extraordinary change and a flowering of the cultural community is one that I could not resist.”

Under Hollein’s leadership in Frankfurt, all three institutions saw record levels of attendance and the Städel was named Museum of the Year by the international art critics association AICA. The institutions significantly increased their activities and outreach through a major digital expansion and redefined communication and education programs. In addition, more than 2,800 artworks were added to the museum collections during his tenure. Hollein is a member of supervisory and advisory boards of cultural institutions worldwide, including the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, the Istanbul Modern Museum, the Neue Galerie in New York and the National Gallery in Prague. Hollein was named “Chevalier dans l`Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” in 2009 by the French Minister of Culture and received the Austrian “Medal of Honor for Science and the Arts” in 2010.

“Max has extraordinary curatorial experience and is an entrepreneurial, forward-thinking director. He believes the duty of a museum does not end in the building but extends to the wider community,” said Board President Diane B. Wilsey. “There is a renaissance happening in San Francisco and we have been looking for someone who can capitalize on this energy to take us forward into our next chapter. I am excited for the fresh thinking and ideas that Max will bring to us and to the city.”

As the head of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Hollein will manage over 500 employees at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, two of the leading art and cultural institutions in California. Combined, the museums’ education programs served more than 270,000 children and families last year.

According to The Art Newspaper, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco is ranked fourth in the country for total number of visitors as a result of its world class exhibitions, the quality of its permanent collections, and its outstanding public education programming and outreach.

Asked about his initial goals at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Hollein said: “Besides an emphasis on high-level programming, significant collection building and audience development, further engagement of our public — and an even wider definition of who that is — will be a primary task. More and more museums, especially encyclopedic ones, do not exist as solely a place to visit, but also as a center of cultural education, complex narration and contemporary discourse. Developing this further and implementing it for a diverse audience, within an environment that is already so rich and full of opportunities and flourishing platforms, will be a significant mission.”‎

Watch an interview with Max Hollein about his work in Frankfurt HERE

About the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, comprising the de Young in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, are the largest public arts institutions in San Francisco.

The Legion of Honor was inspired by the French pavilion, a replica of the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur in Paris, at San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915. The museum opened in 1924 in the Beaux Arts–style building designed by George Applegarth on a bluff overlooking the Golden Gate. Its holdings span 4,000 years and include European painting, sculpture and decorative arts; ancient art from the Mediterranean basin; and the largest collection of works on paper in the American West.

The de Young originated from the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition and was established as the Memorial Museum. Thirty years later, it was renamed in honor of Michael H. de Young, a longtime champion of the museum. The present copper-clad landmark building, designed by Herzog and de Meuron, opened in October 2005. It showcases the institution’s significant collections of American painting, sculpture and decorative arts from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries; art from Africa, Oceania and the Americas; costume and textile arts; and international modern and contemporary art.

About the Städel Museum, the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt and the Liebieghaus Sculpture Collection

Established in 1815, the Städel Museum is the oldest and most renowned museum foundation in Germany. The diversity of the collection provides an almost complete overview of 700 years of European art history. The high level of activity in the research, exhibition and education fields, and the outstanding quality of the collection itself, guarantee the Städel an important place on the international museum scene. It is Germany’s most visited visual arts museum with around 650,000 visitors a year.

The Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt is one of the most important exhibition venues in Europe. Since opening in 1986, it has presented more than 200 exhibitions and boasts a total of more than 8 million visitors. The Schirn focuses on art-historical and historico-cultural themes, discourses, and trends from a contemporary perspective. It has a total of 300,000-450,000 visitors a year.

With more than 3,000 objects, the Liebieghaus Sculpture Collection ranks among the most important sculpture museums worldwide. The collection encompasses outstanding works, spanning from Ancient Egypt to Neoclassicism, offering a substantial overview of 5,000 years of sculpture.

Media Contacts

Jan Rothschild | jrothschild@brunswickgroup.com | 646-506-5160
Miriam Newcomer | mnewcomer@famsf.org | 415-750-8906