More Turmoil Hits the Long-Delayed Academy Museum of Motion Pictures as Its Founding Director Resigns

Director Kerry Brougher, who previously served as a curator at the Hirshhorn Museum, will “return to his roots in the art world.”

Kerry Brougher attends the 2019 TCM 10th Annual Classic Film Festival in Hollywood. Photo: Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for TCM.

After years of delayed launches and missed fund-raising goals, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles is facing more turmoil this week. Its director, Kerry Brougher, who has been heading up the nascent institution since 2014, announced he would be leaving the post.

The news comes just months after the museum decided to postpone its opening date from this year to 2020—the second time it has delayed its highly-anticipated launch—and just weeks before construction is expected to be complete on the $388 million Renzo Piano-designed facility.

“It has been a privilege for me to work with this board, our donors, the great Renzo Piano, and all of my colleagues who have participated in creating this unique Museum,” Brougher said in a statement. “I’m very proud of the work done by our amazing team,” he added. “Now is the right time for me to pass the baton.” A statement from the Academy Museum’s board said that Brougher plans to “return to his roots in the art world.”

Brougher joined the academy in 2014 after a nine-year stint as a curator and, later, acting director of the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Prior to that, he was a curator for the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles and director of the English gallery now called Modern Art Oxford

A rendering of the Renzo Piano-designed Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. ©Renzo Piano Building Workshop/©A.M.P.A.S.

A rendering of the Renzo Piano-designed Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. ©Renzo Piano Building Workshop/©A.M.P.A.S.

His hiring at the Academy Museum was a polarizing one. His detractors claimed his art background left him unsuited to lead an institution dedicated to popular film, while proponents pointed to his curatorial history championing ambitious film exhibitions as a sign of his potential for success. 

Since then, Brougher has been the subject of increasing criticism. To date, the museum has raised $300 million of its $388 million campaign goal, though administration maintains that none of the pushbacks have been tied to fundraising. In June, when the institution announced that it was no longer planning to open in 2019 as Brougher had previously claimed, a museum spokesperson chalked up the delay to the “overall schedule for major industry events in 2020,” saying, “on this basis [we] will choose the optimal moment for our official opening.”

Aerial view of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures under construction. ©A.M.P.A.S.

Aerial view of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures under construction. ©A.M.P.A.S.

In April, the museum’s deputy director for creative content, Deborah Horowitz, departed her post under unclear terms—a sign, some speculated, that the board was frustrated by the lack of progress.

“We thank Kerry for his dedicated service on behalf of the museum,” read a statement from the Academy Museum’s board. “His work over the last five years on the museum’s construction and in-depth collections well-positions us to move into the next phase of this ambitious project. Kerry’s strong curatorial team will continue to work with us toward the museum’s opening, and a search for a new museum director will begin shortly.” 

The search for Brougher’s successor will begin soon, according to Variety. In a memo to museum staff, the board’s CEO Dawn Hudson claimed the former director would “remain available to the Museum for calls and consultation as needed” to aide in the transition.

The Academy Museum did not respond to a request for comment. 

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