Colin Bailey Named as New Director of the Morgan

Posted in museums by Editor on April 18, 2015

Press release (16 April 2015) from the Morgan:

The Board of Trustees of the Morgan Library & Museum today announced the appointment of Colin B. Bailey, director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, as the Morgan’s new director. He succeeds William M. Griswold who left last year to head the Cleveland Museum of Art.


Colin B. Bailey, Photography by Randy Dodson, © FAMSF

“We are delighted that Colin Bailey has agreed to become the new director of the Morgan,” said Lawrence Ricciardi, president of the museum’s board. “He is a scholar of the highest order with an impressive record of leadership at a number of outstanding museums. Moreover, he has extensive knowledge of New York cultural institutions and of the philanthropic world, and also brings to the Morgan valuable international experience.”

Bailey is a highly regarded specialist on 18th-century French art and a recognized authority on the work of Pierre-Auguste Renoir. He earned his Doctor of Philosophy in Art History from the University of Oxford. Prior to joining the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Bailey held a variety of positions over thirteen years at New York’s Frick Collection, including serving as deputy director and the Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator.

“To direct the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco has been an extraordinary privilege,” Bailey said, in accepting the position at the Morgan. “But the opportunity to return to New York and lead an institution with the reputation of the Morgan was irresistible. Its collections are not only among the most recognized internationally, but also among the most diverse, touching on so many forms of creative expression, from drawing and literature to music, photography, and the arts of the ancient and medieval worlds. There is no place quite like it in the United States, and I look forward to working with its staff, trustees, and supporters to maintain and deepen the Morgan’s preeminent role as a cultural institution—one with the highest standards and a commitment to making its holdings widely accessible.”

Bailey has previously been deputy director and chief curator at the National Gallery of Canada, in Ottawa, senior curator at the Kimbell Art Museum in Ft. Worth, Texas, and held curatorial posts at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles earlier in his career.

He has been responsible for many celebrated exhibitions. These include Renoir, Impressionism, and Full-Length Painting (2012); Watteau to Degas: French Drawings from the Frits Lugt Collection (2009); and Gabriel de Saint-Aubin (1724–1780) (2007), all mounted at the Frick Collection in New York; Renoir Landscapes, 1865–1883 (2007), The Age of Watteau, Chardin and Fragonard: Masterpieces of 18th-century French Genre Painting (2003), and Renoir’s Portraits: Impressions of an Age (1997), at the National Gallery of Canada; and The Loves of the Gods: Mythological Painting from Watteau to David (1992), at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. His book, Patriotic Taste: Collecting Modern Art in Pre-Revolutionary Paris, was awarded the Mitchell Prize for the best art history book of 2002–2003, and in 2011 he authored the well-received Fragonard’s Progress of Love at The Frick Collection.

Bailey has taught graduate seminars in 18th-century French art at Bryn Mawr College, Columbia University, and the City University of New York Graduate Center, and has acted as a spokesperson in video, podcast, and broadcast media nationally and internationally. An Officier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres since 2010, Bailey has been recognized by the Foundation for Italian Art and Culture with its 2013 FIAC Excellency Award. He is also a board member of the Burlington Magazine Foundation and the Scientific Committee of Arthéna.

The Morgan Library & Museum’s holdings, which number well over a half million objects, are principally in the western European and American traditions. Its collections of drawings and prints, books and bindings, and illuminated manuscripts are preeminent among U.S. institutions. Literary, historical, and music manuscripts holdings, as well as other specialized collections, are also considered among the world’s greatest. The museum’s critically acclaimed 2006 addition by award-winning architect Renzo Piano deftly connected three historic buildings dating to the 19th and early 20th centuries around a central, glass-enclosed court. The expansion also doubled the museum’s gallery space, allowing the institution to mount over a dozen special exhibitions a year. In 2010, the Morgan restored for the first time its landmark 1906 McKim building, which was the personal library of the museum’s founder, financier and philanthropist Pierpont Morgan.

Bailey becomes the Morgan’s sixth director. Belle da Costa Greene became the first director of the newly public institution in 1924, having presided over the private Morgan library since 1906. She was succeeded by Frederick B. Adams, Jr. in 1948, Charles Ryskamp in 1969, Charles E. Pierce, Jr. in 1987, and William M. Griswold in 2008.

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