Don Bacigalupi, executive director of the San Diego Museum of Art, yesterday was named the eighth director of the Toledo Museum of Art.
Dr. Bacigalupi, a 43-year-old administrator and curator with a strong background in art history and modern art, will succeed Roger M. Berkowitz, who in May announced plans to retire after five years as director.
The unanimous selection of both the museum's 10-member succession planning committee and 23-member board allows Dr. Bacigalupi to become director-elect in November and assume the directorship on Jan. 19, when Dr. Berkowitz retires.
“He was clearly our No. 1 choice, and we're just delighted to have secured him,” said James A. Hoffman, chairman of the museum's board of directors and head of the succession planning committee. Seventy-five candidates were considered in the international search.
The committee was seeking someone with a strong art background, both academically and in practice, Mr. Hoffman said.
He added that Dr. Bacigalupi, who became director of the San Diego Museum after serving as director and chief curator of the Blaffer Gallery at the University of Houston, brings to the position an understanding of all types of art.
As Toledo museum director, Dr. Bacigalupi will have a five-year contract, but he and Mr. Hoffman declined to give his salary. In San Diego, his salary for the 2002 fiscal year was $231,247.
In a 2002 financial disclosure form the museum was required to file with the Internal Revenue Service, Dr. Berkowitz's salary was listed as $260,000.
Dr. Bacigalupi said he decided to leave the temperate climate of San Diego, where he has been museum director since 1999, because the opportunity to lead the Toledo museum was one that could not be passed up.
“The Toledo museum is such a terrific institution and it's one that I have known of and admired from afar for a very long time, in fact since I was in graduate school. ... It has always been well run by a string of remarkable directors, many of whom are real legends in our field.”
Although his specialty is in contemporary art, Dr. Bacigalupi said that as a museum professional, he is a generalist. “Every scholar has a dissertation to write, but it doesn't mean we neglect other periods and cultures.”
He said that as director of the Toledo museum, he hopes to continue the institution's tradition and to engage the community at every level.
“I think the responsibility of any museum is to offer opportunities for all people of all backgrounds, levels of education, socioeconomic levels, and ethnic backgrounds, to offer them something that will engage them, be relevant in their lives, and affect them in positive ways,” he said.
Dr. Berkowitz, who worked closely with the succession planning committee, said the new director-elect clearly comprehends the role of museums in today's society.
“He has a great understanding that a museum is not something that sits off by itself, but very much is a part of its community,” he said.
Museum board member Richard Anderson, who served on the succession planning committee, agreed. “He is really strong on community involvement in the arts and has done some remarkable things in San Diego working with all the arts. He's quite collaborative, rather than being an isolationist.”
Dr. Bacigalupi said he also wants to widen the reach of the Toledo museum. “As a connoisseur and scholar, the quality of Toledo's collections is unparalleled. ... It's a marvel, and one of my goals and responsibilities will be to make that knowledge more widespread both within the community, but really across the nation and the world.
“It's one of the great collections in the world, and it should be recognized by everyone in the world,” he said.
“I think he's a terrific choice,” Dr. Berkowitz added. “He has so many of the qualities we were looking for, both in academic credentials, but also in community-mindedness, and he has the kind of interpersonal skills to bring all those things together. You have substance and someone who can really deal with people in the community.”
Dr. Berkowitz said the San Diego museum, which opened in 1926 in Balboa Park, is a general museum with Asian art, old masters, and contemporary works, making it much like the Toledo museum, but on a smaller scale.
In recent years, the San Diego museum has gone through difficult times that Dr. Bacigalupi is credited with rectifying.
“Some factions developed, and there were some problems in terms of the public trust,” he said. “Those are long since behind us. The museum has really come alive and is deeply involved in and very well supported by the community. That's been a great transition to oversee.”
Dr. Berkowitz added that “[Dr. Bacigalupi] was able to raise [the museum's] visibility, prestige, its whole sense of community purpose. He did that with great skill.”
Dr. Bacigalupi holds a doctorate in art history from the University of Texas at Austin. He also has served as curator of contemporary art at the San Antonio Museum of Art and has taught, written, lectured, and served as an exhibition juror.
He also loves glass.
“I personally have a passion for glass, and I collect glass in my own home. So the thrill of the museum's history and future with this coming building [the Center for Glass] is very exciting,” he said.