Timothy Rub, the George D. Widener Director and CEO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, to Retire on January 30, 2022
Philadelphia, PA (July 30, 2021)—Timothy Rub, the George D. Widener Director and Chief Executive Officer, announced today that he plans to retire in early 2022 after thirteen years of service at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Rub, who will turn 70 in early March, has led the museum since September 2009.
During his tenure, the museum has undergone a significant transformation. A major phase of the Facilities Master Plan designed by Frank Gehry, the “Core Project,” was completed in late spring 2021 after a decade of planning and four years of construction. Hailed as a thoughtful and nuanced response to the architectural character of the museum’s landmark main building, the Core Project represents the largest increase in public and gallery space to this facility since it was opened to the public in 1928. Rub also initiated several other capital improvements (listed below), among them the renovation of the Rodin Museum and its gardens, that have significantly improved the presentation of the museum’s permanent collections and enhanced the experience of its visitors.
Rub led the development of a new strategic plan for the museum in 2013, focusing on several critically important goals: engaging new audiences both on site and online through innovative exhibitions and programs; activating the museum’s world-renowned collection through new installations, publications, and digital initiatives; enhancing the visitor experience through improvements to the museum’s facilities; and strengthening its commitment to civic engagement. During his tenure, visitorship has become much younger and more diverse, a trend that is expected to resume as the city recovers from the global pandemic, and the museum significantly developed its collections; expanded educational programming, especially for families; prioritized community engagement; and made significant advances in scholarship and conservation.
“It has been a great honor to serve as the director of one of this country’s finest art museums,” Rub wrote to the staff and Board of Trustees in announcing his retirement, “and to play a role in strengthening its collections and programs as well as renewing our landmark main building to make it ready for another century of service to the community. It has also been a privilege to work with a talented and dedicated staff and with a group of trustees, led successively by board chairs Gerry Lenfest, Connie Williams, and Leslie Anne Miller, whose generosity and commitment to fulfilling the mission of this institution is—and will remain—the very definition of good stewardship.”
Leslie Anne Miller, Chair of the Board of Trustees, stated: “Timothy’s tenure has been one of major accomplishment, and it has been characterized by meeting major challenges head on. He arrived at the museum during the depths of a major recession and has been instrumental in addressing, in a thoughtful and forthright way, the many challenges we have faced during the past year. His leadership has been essential to the completion of the Core Project and in the remarkable progress we have made in fulfilling the goals of the largest capital campaign undertaken in the history of this institution. During the past decade we have witnessed the steady growth of our collections, enjoyed innovative exhibitions such as Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism, 1910–1950, and Dancing Around the Bride: Cage, Cunningham, Johns, Rauschenberg, and Duchamp, and we have seen the museum engage the community to a greater degree than ever before.”
The Board of Trustees will immediately initiate an international search for Rub’s successor. To ensure a smooth transition, after stepping down at the end of January, Rub will continue to serve the institution on a consulting basis until the museum’s next director is in place. He will also serve as co-curator for the upcoming exhibition Sean Scully: The Shape of Ideas, when it opens at the museum next April.
The following is a selection of accomplishments achieved during Rub’s tenure.
CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS AND STEWARDSHIP
In May 2021, the museum celebrated the completion of the Core Project, a key component of the Facilities Master Plan. With Frank Gehry appointed as architect in 2006, the plan was first developed under the leadership of previous director Anne d’Harnoncourt, but had been paused upon her death and the onset of the Great Recession. Following Rub’s appointment in 2009, the Master Plan underwent further revision and development as it was readied for implementation. Rub took significant steps to make this plan public, sharing it in the form of an exhibition, Making a Classic Modern: Frank Gehry’s Master Plan, in 2014. The “Core Project,” which has now added 90,000 square feet of new public space to the museum, was executed in phases between 2017 and 2021 at a total cost of $233 million. This work, which made major infrastructural improvements and replaced aging building systems, also reorganized visitor circulation, opened up public spaces that had been closed to the public for nearly a half century, and added 20,000 square feet of new gallery space for early American art and modern and contemporary art. During construction, the museum remained open to the public, with attendance far exceeding projections until March 2020, when the pandemic forced the museum to close for much of last year.
European Painting, Sculpture and Decorative Arts, 1850–1900 (2019)
The museum renovated and reinstalled its 14 galleries dedicated to European Art of the second half of the 19th century, creating new interpretive relationships among painting, sculpture, and the decorative arts and highlighting key works of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. The scope of this renovation included the replastering of walls, the introduction of new wall colors, the refinishing of floors, and new casework and lighting.
Chinese Art (2018)
This comprehensive reinstallation of the galleries dedicated to the art of China, the first in more than 40 years, rejuvenated the presentation of a great strength of the museum’s collection. The project created better sight lines and visitor flow, added new casework, oak flooring (that replaced painted concrete), and new lighting. It also entailed the extensive recataloguing of the collection, the conservation of key works, most especially ceramics and carved stone objects, and the publication of the first book of highlights of Chinese art. The reinstallation embraced art in all media and benefited from an interpretive plan designed to engage broad audiences and developed in close collaboration with the Division of Education and Public Programs.
South Asian Art (2016)
This comprehensive renovation of the museum’s galleries of South Asian art, also the first in more than four decades, included a complete reinstallation and a more accessible and engaging reinterpretation of this internationally important collection. New state-of-the-art lighting, flooring, and casework were installed, a number of important works were conserved, and the entire collection was made available for the first time online.
Rodin Museum (2012–13)
One of the first and most complex projects Rub undertook during his tenure was the comprehensive renovation and reinstallation of the Rodin Museum, which has been managed by the Philadelphia Museum of Art since it first opened to the public in 1929. The exterior of the building, which was designed by the celebrated Philadelphia architect Paul Cret, was fully renovated and its interiors restored to their original appearance. The museum’s formal garden was also renovated and replanted. A major conservation project embraced both the building interior and collections, as key works by Rodin, including one of the first bronze casts made of The Gates of Hell, were cleaned and, in some cases, repatinated. The Burghers of Calais was returned to its original location in the garden and other works were returned to their original locations in the niches on the façade and the arches in the Meudon Gate, while the popular marble sculpture, titled the Kiss, was returned to the central gallery within the museum.
During Rub’s tenure, a talented curatorial staff has typically originated more than 25 important exhibitions each year, many of which have broken new ground and drawn significant numbers of visitors to the museum and city. Some were exceptionally broad in concept or scope and represented major contributions in the field, including Dancing Around the Bride: Cage, Cunningham, Johns, Rauschenberg, and Duchamp (2012–13); Ink and Gold: Art of the Kano (2015); Represent: 200 Years of African American Art (2015); and American Watercolor in the Age of Homer and Sargent (2017). Other highly focused presentations centered on outstanding individual works in the collection, including An Eakins Masterpiece Restored: Seeing The Gross Clinic Anew (2010–11), Barbara Chase-Riboud: The Malcolm X Steles 2013–14), Shipwreck! Winslow Homer and the Lifeline 2012–13), and The Wrath of the Gods: Masterpieces by Rubens, Michelangelo, and Titian (2015).
Rub has served as a catalyst for several of the museum’s most ambitious touring exhibitions projects, among them Treasures from Korea: Arts and Culture from Joseon Dynasty, 1392–1910, which originated in Philadelphia in 2016 and traveled to Houston and Los Angeles (it resulted in a reciprocal exhibition in which major European works from the museum’s collection traveled to several cities in Korea) and Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism,1910–1950, which traveled to Mexico City and Houston and surveyed four transformative decades in which Mexico emerged as a major center of modern art. In addition, Rub initiated the first international tour of the museum’s unrivalled collection of works by Marcel Duchamp in the exhibition The Essential Duchamp, which was seen in Japan, Korea, and Australia. Along with Adam Weinberg, director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, he also championed the development of Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror, the comprehensive retrospective dedicated to one of the foremost American artists of the last century, which will open simultaneously at both venues on September 29, 2021.
The museum’s collections have grown significantly during the past decade through purchases and gifts of works of art. Notable purchases during Rub’s tenure include, in 2011, Charles Willson Peale’s Yarrow Mamout (1819), a rare early oil portrait of an African American man and perhaps the earliest to represent an American Muslim; in 2012, the Fox and Grapes Dressing Table (1765–75), which is the mate to a monumental high chest in the collection and with it demonstrates the height of achievement in cabinetmaking and ornament in pre-revolutionary Philadelphia; in 2015, a rare late 17th-century Mexican shell inlay painting, or enconchado, that depicts Saint Didacus of Alcalá and represents a synthesis of European, Asian, and Mexican artistic traditions; in 2015, a luminous painting—considered by some to be his finest work—by the Pennsylvania artist Daniel Garber depicting his young daughter Tanis; and Bruce Nauman’s large-scale video work Contrapposto Studies, I through VII (2015/16).
The museum also acquired by gift a number of significant private collections, many of them in fields of American and contemporary art. Noteworthy among them are the Robert L. McNeil, Jr., Collection of American art, which includes, with a focus on Philadelphia, superb examples of 18th- and early 19th-century silver and furniture, and exceptional works by Frederic Church, Gilbert Stuart, and the many members of the Peale family; nearly 3,400 photographic works by Paul Strand, celebrated in the exhibition Paul Strand Master of Modern Photography (2014–15), an acquisition which included gifts from Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest and Harold and Lynne Honickman, as well as a large group of photographs and related materials purchased from the Aperture Foundation; and an important bequest of five major French paintings from Helen Tyson Madeira, including a late painting by Paul Cézanne depicting Mont Sainte-Victoire, a still life by Edouard Manet, two paintings by Camille Pissarro, and a portrait of a young girl by Berthe Morisot.
A major promised gift of nearly 100 works of contemporary art was the focus of Embracing the Contemporary: The Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Collection, an exhibition in 2016 that previewed the many important works by artists such as Charles Ray, Gerhard Richter, Howard Hodgkin, Richard Hamilton, Louise Bourgeois, and others that this donation would bring to the museum’s collection. Another important gift in that same year, the bequest of the Daniel W. Dietrich II Collection, included more than 50 works, among them important paintings by Cy Twombly, Philip Guston, Agnes Martin, Horace Pippin, Edwin Dickinson, and Marsden Hartley; a significant group of works—which had been the largest in private hands—by Paul Thek; and the first painting by Edward Hopper, Road and Trees (1962), to enter the collection.
During Rub’s tenure, the museum also acquired numerous collections that expanded its holdings of folk art, outsider art, and other vernacular traditions. In “Great and Mighty Things”: Outsider Art from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection, the museum celebrated a major promised gift of more than 200 works in 2013. Another major promised gift of Fraktur, one of the most admired forms of American folk art, was celebrated in 2015 in Drawn with Spirit: Pennsylvania German Fraktur from the Joan and Victor Johnson Collection. And in 2019 the museum celebrated a major recent gift-purchase agreement with The Souls Grown Deep Foundation, which included 24 works by artists such as Thornton Dial, Lonnie Holley, Ronald Lockett, Bessie Harvey, and quilts made by several generations of women from Gee’s Bend, Alabama. Together, these works formed the basis of the exhibition Souls Grown Deep: Artists of the African American South.
Other important additions to the collection during the past decade included a major promised gift of early American art—paintings, furniture, and decorative arts—from the collection of Leslie Anne Miller and Richard Worley; works by the Chicago Imagists from the collection of Robert Allen Lewis; and groundbreaking examples of works from the Art to Wear movement from the collection of Julie Dale which, in 2019, were highlighted in the exhibition Off the Wall: American Art to Wear.
Major projects in museum conservation were funded and completed over the past dozen years, including Thomas Eakins’s masterpiece, The Gross Clinic, in 2010; the regilding of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s Diana, the iconic sculpture that presides over the Great Stair Hall, in 2012; the comprehensive cleaning of works by Rodin, including The Gates of Hell, in the collection of the Rodin Museum; the pair of important frescoes executed in 1931 by Diego Rivera: Liberation of the Peon and Sugar Cane; the outstanding suite of painted neoclassical furniture designed in 1808 by Benjamin Henry Latrobe for the Waln house in Philadelphia, between 2012 and 2017; Renoir’s Great Bathers (1884–87), in 2019, and, most recently, Charles Willson Peale’s The Staircase Group (1795), currently on view, as with the Latrobe furniture, in the new Robert L. McNeil, Jr., Galleries dedicated to American Art from 1650 to 1850.
STRATEGIC PLAN AND ITS OUTCOMES
In 2011, Rub began working with the museum’s staff to establish a new five-year strategic plan, identifying goals to build new audiences, to enhance the visitor experience, to activate the collection, and to promote civic engagement. Since this plan was adopted in 2013, outcomes have included the creation of the Department of Community Access and Engagement in the Division of Education and expanded Pay-What-You-Wish admission on Wednesday nights. The museum also initiated a range of community-focused exhibitions, including, in 2012, Zoe Strauss: 10 Years, which engaged staff in envisioning more inclusive models for museum openings; and Philadelphia Assembled, in 2017, through which partnerships with hundreds of local collaborators explored the city’s changing landscape in a story of active resistance and radical community building.
A new summer program initiated in 2012, Art Splash, drew large audiences, offering novel ways for families to enjoy and interact with collections and exhibitions, such as Witness: The Art of Jerry Pinkney (2013). A new program called Art Sherlock was introduced, establishing middle school partnerships around the region to enhance students’ skills of observation, investigation, and creativity. With Inside Out, awareness-building for the collections extended to communities ranging from Haddonfield to Brewerytown to Media, as large-scale replicas of favorite works were prominently placed outdoors in public places, extending the welcome to explore the museum. Holidays at the Museum, with its annual tree-lighting on the East Terrace, was also initiated to promote the museum as a civic destination in which to share both art and social experiences with friends and loved ones. As a result of these efforts, audience demographics changed, skewing much younger and more diverse than before, and more closely approximating the demographics of the Philadelphia area.
The period of Rub’s tenure also saw a significant commitment to scholarship, beginning with a major revision of the Philadelphia Museum of Art handbook, and new publications dedicated to the museum’s collections of Chinese art, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, arms and armor, American furniture, American silver, the Peale family of painters, and Marcel Duchamp. He also initiated the museum’s first online collections catalogue, dedicated to the John G. Johnson Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and began plans to develop on online portal dedicated to sharing archives related to Duchamp across multiple institutions. Among the landmark catalogues published by the museum were those that accompanied the exhibitions on the work of Paul Strand; the influence of Marcel Duchamp on the work of John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Jasper Johns, and Robert Rauschenberg; the Kano School of Japanese Painters; Korean art of the Joseon Dynasty; and Mexican Modernism.
During his tenure, Rub made a number of new appointments in the fields of European art; American art; Chinese art; and Prints, Drawings and Photographs, and in doing so began the process of a generational change in curatorial leadership in the museum. He also oversaw the transformation of a number of areas that have been profoundly affected by the emergence of new digital technologies: Publications, Imaging Services, and the museum’s Library and Archives. During the past year, a major restructuring effort focused on the establishment of a new Division of Digital Resources and Content Strategy and on the creation of a new office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access and completion of a search of a new Deputy Director to lead the museum’s work in this area.
Before coming to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Rub served as the Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Cleveland Museum of Art from 2006 to 2009, where he oversaw a major renovation and expansion of the museum’s campus and reinstalled its collection in the renovated 1916 building and new East Wing designed by the architect Raphael Viñoly. He was the director of the Cincinnati Art Museum from 2000 to 2006 and Director of the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College from 1991 to 1999. Rub graduated from Middlebury College in 1974 with a BA and highest honors in art history and then enrolled in the doctoral program at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts, where he earned an MA and a certificate in curatorial studies. Later, he received an MBA from the Yale School of Management and participated in the Harvard University Program for art museum directors. A specialist in architectural history and modern and contemporary art, Rub began his curatorial career as a Ford Foundation Fellow and curator at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York.
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