Thom Collins Leaves Miami for Barnes Foundation

Thomas Collins
Photo: New York Times/Getty.

Thomas “Thom” Collins has been named executive director and president of Philadelphia’s Barnes Foundation. The museum’s COO and CFO, Peg Zminda, has served as acting director since the departure a year ago of Derek Gillman, who was named yesterday as Christie’s chairman and senior vice president of Impressionist and modern art for the Americas.

Collins makes the move from the Pérez Art Museum Miami, Florida, where he has been director for five years. There, he oversaw the construction of a $131 million glass-and-concrete waterfront building on Biscayne Bay, designed by Herzog & de Meuron. It opened to enthusiastic response during Art Basel in Miami Beach in 2013. Formerly known as the Miami Art Museum, the Pérez was re-christened in 2013 in acknowledgement of real-estate developer Jorge M. Pérez’s $40 million gift of cash and art. The controversial move led to the resignation of four board members.

Before going to Miami, Collins served for five years as director of the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, New York. Prior to that, he was director of the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore, Maryland (2003-05); chief curator at the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, Ohio (2000-03); associate curator at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, Washington (1998-2000) and a curatorial fellow at the Museum of Modern Art (1994-97). He earned an MA in art history from Northwestern University after studying art history and the history of religions at Swarthmore.

Founded in 1922 in Merion, Pennsylvania by Albert C. Barnes, a doctor, chemist, art collector and educator, the Barnes is known for a stellar collection of Post-Impressionist and modern paintings, and is well stocked with works by Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso, Rousseau, Modigliani, Soutine and de Chirico. Also well represented are Charles Demuth, William Glackens, Horace Pippin and Maurice Prendergast. The fine-art collection is shown in concert with an extensive collection of decorative arts, African sculpture, Native American ceramics, and antiquities.

Like the Pérez, the Barnes is no stranger to controversy, having moved from suburban Merion to central Philadelphia in contravention of Barnes’s will, as depicted polemically in the 2009 documentary The Art of the Steal. The museum reopened in 2012 in a $200 million building designed by Billie Tsien and Tod Williams.

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