Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Appoint Colin B. Bailey as Director

Mar 27, 2013

Seated, smiling man wearing suit.

Colin B. Bailey

SAN FRANCISCO (March 27, 2013)—The Board of Trustees of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco today named Colin B. Bailey, a noted art historian, curator and award-winning author, as the new director of the largest public arts institution in Northern California.

Bailey most recently served as the Deputy Director and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator at The Frick Collection in New York. He has won numerous honors and accolades for his work, including a prestigious Mitchell Prize for best art history book, and was named one of the first fellows by the Center for Curatorial Leadership. He takes over leadership of one of the most popular art institutions in the United States—with 1.6 million visitors last year, the fourth most-visited museums in the country.

“I have always been amazed at the ambitions and achievements of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco,” Bailey said. “In a way, the museums are the Met, MOMA, the Frick and the Morgan all in one, and they serve a tremendously vibrant community. It’s advantageous that the de Young and the Legion of Honor each have such distinct personalities—there’s an opportunity to do the larger blockbuster projects and also the more focused and scholarly undertakings.”

Born in London, Bailey earned his doctorate in art history at Oxford University. He specializes in 18th- and 19th-century French art, was named Chevalier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1994 for his contribution to French culture and was promoted to Officier in 2010. He also held a residency under Henri Loyrette, the former president and director of the Louvre in Paris, the largest museum in the world.

Prior to joining the Frick, Bailey worked as the deputy director and chief curator of the National Gallery of Canada, and has also held curatorial positions at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Kimbell Art Museum in Ft. Worth.

Bailey is credited with revitalizing the Frick’s curatorial department and, as deputy director, he oversaw the conservation, education, registration, exhibition management, publications and photography departments. He began at the Frick as chief curator, rising to associate director and then deputy director, expanding his management responsibilities at each level. It is his curatorial expertise, however, that earned him an international reputation.

“Colin Bailey’s contributions to the field of art, art history and museology have long been recognized by fellow scholars and curators, professional organizations and even the French government,” said Douglas Druick, President and Eloise W. Martin Director of the Art Institute of Chicago. “His tenures at the Frick Collection and the National Gallery of Canada, among other institutions, have been distinguished by major acquisitions and exhibitions that have advanced the field while appealing to a wide audience.”

He has organized more than two dozen exhibitions, including the recent Renoir, Impressionism and Full-Length Painting at the Frick, many of which have represented new scholarship and have been praised for providing keen insights into individual artists. Other exhibitions include Masterpieces of European Painting from Dulwich Picture Gallery; Renoir’s Landscapes, 1865-1883; and Rembrandt and His School: Masterworks from the Frick and Lugt Collections.

Bailey’s many publications include The Loves of the Gods: Mythological Painting from Watteau to David; Masterpieces of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection; and Patriotic Taste: Collecting Modern Art in Pre-Revolutionary Paris, the book that won the Mitchell Prize.

Bailey is a skilled administrator and advocate for the arts. He secured critical funds for exhibitions, endowed positions, and educational programs throughout his career. In addition to being a visiting professor at esteemed universities such as Columbia University, Bryn Mawr College, and the University of Pennsylvania, he is a regular contributor to radio art shows in New York, presented on a PBS series, and was a guest commentator on the nationally-syndicated Charlie Rose show.

Bailey was picked after an exhaustive year-long international search by a 13-member selection committee of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s Board of Trustees, which was clearly intent on moving beyond the museums’ reputation as a home for blockbuster exhibitions to focus more on its permanent collections.

“Our goals for the future will be a focus on curatorial excellence, art historical relevance and continued service to our community,” said Board President Diane B. Wilsey. “We all agree that Colin has the qualities that will elevate the museums to the next level.”

As the head of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Bailey will manage 550 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 museum’s education programs serve more than 260,000 children and families annually.

“The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco represent the best of our City as cultural and artistic institutions that bring together people from all edges of the globe and art from the entire continuum of civilization,” said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. “I am confident that when Colin takes the helm to lead our Fine Arts Museums, our museums will continue to excite our residents and bring visitors from all around the world to San Francisco. Additionally, I want to thank the Board of Trustees and its president for their steadfast leadership during this transition.”

According to The Art Newspaper, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco is ranked third among U.S. art museums for total number of members and fourth 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.

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

The de Young is housed in a copper-clad landmark building designed by Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron. It showcases the institution’s significant collections of American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from the 17th to the 21st centuries; art from Oceania, Africa, and the Americas; a diverse collection of costumes and textiles; and international contemporary art.

The Legion of Honor’s Beaux-Arts style building designed by George Applegarth is located on a bluff overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Its collections span 4,000 years and include European paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts; ancient art from the Mediterranean basin; and the largest collection of works on paper in the American West.