Cuno on Bomford’s departure and hiring a new museum director
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We can now cross one person off the list of possible museum directors for the Getty: David Bomford, who has served as the museum’s acting director for nearly two years without much fanfare or criticism, has announced that he is leaving the museum Feb. 1.
In an email sent to Getty colleagues Tuesday, Bomford wrote that he will “return to London, where I plan to continue to pursue research, scholarship and writing.” Deeper in the email, he added: “As you know a search for a permanent director is underway and, until the new Director is hired and in place, [J. Paul Getty Trust CEO and President] Jim Cuno has elected to serve as Acting Director of the Museum.”
With a bachelor’s degree in pure chemistry and a master’s in organometallic chemistry from the University of Sussex, Bomford is best known for his work in the field of art conservation. Most notably, he was senior restorer of paintings at the National Gallery in London from 1974 to 2007. He left the National Gallery to become associate director of collections at the Getty before being named acting director of the museum when Michael Brand abruptly departed in January 2010.
It is not entirely clear why Bomford is leaving in February instead of waiting for Cuno to name a museum director, but his departure is a sign that Bomford, Cuno or both realized that he was not the best fit for the open job. Bomford was not available to speak today, according to a Getty spokesperson.
Cuno, who took his position at the Getty in August after serving as museum director at the Art Institute of Chicago, said he has not had any conversations with Bomford about the open post. “We have not gotten that far along in the process, even if David wished to be a serious candidate for the position.” He described Bomford’s departure as a return to his roots as “a consummate scholar, researcher and writer, with a bibliography the length of my arm.”
As for his taking on the Getty museum director’s duties himself, Cuno said he made the decision in consultation with “staff at the museum, trust employees and trustees.”
Any chance it could last beyond a year? “Only if I fail to appoint a director, which is not my design, that’s for sure,” he said. “The job I have is demanding and the museum director’s job is demanding, and I don’t know that I could handle two of them.”
He said he plans to name a new museum director “by the end of this fiscal year--June 30” and has been working with the search firm Russell Reynolds to that end. He is still working with the search firm on a “dreamy wish-list sort of thing” of about a dozen names, including existing museum directors and chief curators of other institutions “who might be appropriate for the job even if they aren’t available.” Next steps: firm up the list, and begin the courtship.
Above: Acting Getty Museum director David Bomford. Credit: J. Paul Getty Trust