After nearly ten years as Director of the Addison Gallery of American Art, Brian Allen will step down to become the Vice President and Director of the Museum Division of the New York Historical Society. During Allen’s tenure at the Addison, the museum underwent a $22 million renovation, raised a total of $40 million, had 30 exhibition cycles and increased its collection by more than 33 percent.
“I’m very proud of what I’ve been able to do here, and I’ve certainly been helped by a wonderful staff and very devoted, enthusiastic donors. But the Historical Society is a great next step for me. It’s in New York, it’s a distinguished institution like the Addison is and the collection is wonderful,” said Allen.
The New York Historical Society has both a museum and library division. Allen will direct the Museum Division, which currently holds more than one million pieces and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
In 2008, under Allen’s direction, the museum underwent its largest renovation in over 75 years with the addition of the Museum Learning Center (MLC) and a larger storage facility within the museum. The expansion also moved museum administration offices out of the current main gallery area, creating space for more exhibits.
The Addison’s role in the Andover and greater Boston community has increased due to the MLC and its accessibility for students and classes from all over the country, according to Rebecca Hayes, Addison Gallery Curator of Education.
“Brian [Allen] really shepherded us through the expansion project, when we broke ground to build the Museum Learning Center, as well as the state-of-the-art storage that we now have downstairs, which for the first time allowed us to house 100 percent of our collection on-site. Prior, it had all been stored in Boston, which really left a gap in teaching opportunities for us.” said Hayes.
“[The renovation] has dramatically changed our education department’s and the museum’s ability to serve Phillips Academy classes on an ongoing basis just the way we envisioned it would happened,” said Susan Faxon, Associate Director and Curator of the Addison.
The Addison’s collection now includes more than 17,000 pieces, almost 40 times its original collection of 435 pieces in 1931. Under Allen, the museum acquired more art from the 21st century in addition to more historical pieces, including Andover founder Samuel Phillips’s tea kettle, according to Sidney Knafel, Chairman of the Addison Board of Governors.
“[Allen] has been assiduous in locating, identifying items that we could obtain, and has been able to demonstrate to people, convince people of the value of making those items available to a larger audience by a donation to the Addison Gallery,” Knafel said.
Andover has hired Linda Sweet of the Management Consultant for the Arts to conduct the search for a new Addison Director, with the assistance of the Search Advisory Committee, a 12 member committee of Addison staff and Andover alumni, faculty and trustees.
Next weekend, Sweet will meet with the committee and other faculty to discuss the search process, according to David Fox, Instructor in Art History and English and member of the Search Advisory Committee. The school plans to finish the search process by early February of next year.
“He [the new director] has to be an art scholar, he has to be open-minded in terms of schools of American art, whether it’s early American art or contemporary, exploratory or new media… He has to be able to identify people who have the potential to support the Addison, and he has to make them part of the Addison family and expand that family beyond the alumni of Phillips Academy to art lovers throughout the country,” said Knafel.