Colin Bailey Joins Morgan Library as Director

Colin Bailey. Photo: Patrick McMullan.

Just two years into his tenure, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) director Colin Bailey is jumping ship for a position as the director of the Morgan Library & Museum in New York, which has been without a leader since July 2014. The Morgan’s former director, William M. Griswold, left last year to helm the Cleveland Museum of Art (see Weekly Shuffle: Many Changes at the Met and Morgan).

Bailey, a longtime New Yorker, is a highly-regarded Renoir scholar, but had never run a museum prior to his appointment in San Francisco. Before moving to FAMSF, where he oversaw both the de Young Museum and the Legion of Honor, Bailey served for many years as the chief curator at the Frick Collection.

Prior to his time at the Frick, he was deputy director and chief curator at the National Gallery of Canada, after a time as senior curator at the Kimbell Art Museum in Ft. Worth. He also held held curatorial posts at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the J. Paul Getty Museum, in Malibu, California, earlier in his career.

Museum president Lawrence R. Ricciardi said that the board hopes the museum can continue to increase visitorship under Bailey’s direction. “We should be able to do a little better. The programming is there. It’s just a question of getting the word out and getting people in the door,” he told the New York Times.

Bailey believes a heavier reliance on the museum’s collection, which boasts over 500,000 objects, including one of the world’s best collections of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, old master drawings and early printed books, might be just the ticket to garnering greater interest in the institution (see Little Prince Was a New York Baby, Not a French Bébé).

“To me the thrill is to think about all of the great artists of the Western tradition that you could show in depth just through the Morgan’s holdings of their drawings and prints,” said Bailey.

The museum also collects 20th-century drawings and prints, including some by artists like Susan Rothenberg and Chris Ofili.

Bailey also thinks a heavier social media presence will be an asset to the museum, especially in terms of recruiting younger visitors. “I’ve seen just how persuasive social media can be,” he noted.

No word on why Bailey exited the FAMSF so soon, and to head a much smaller staff and operation—the Morgan’s annual operating budget is $18 million, while the FAMSF has over $50 million.

“It was early to leave,” Bailey admitted. “And I wasn’t looking—it was just an extraordinary opportunity, to go to a place where I have such a deep affinity with the collections.”

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