Scott Schaefer, the County Museum of Art’s curator of European paintings and sculpture for the past seven years, has resigned.
Citing “differences” with administration over “what a museum is about” but declining to elaborate on them, Schaefer told The Times he will leave the museum at the end of the year.
Museum Director Earl A. Powell also declined to comment on any philosophical differences that might have prompted Schaefer’s departure. “I would only say that the decision was his, not mine,” Powell said. “He has been a very aggressive and acquisitive curator, and his contributions have greatly enhanced the museum’s collections.”
Schaefer intends to continue museum work but has no definite plans. “I have had several offers and I have lots of irons in the fire,” he said in a telephone interview.
Known for his conviction that museums are remembered for their permanent collections, and not their temporary exhibitions, Schaefer cited as his major accomplishment the addition of 64 European paintings and sculptures to the museum’s collection (through gifts and purchases) during his tenure. He also takes pride in “encouraging collecting in the private sector,” a development that may lead to future gifts of Old Masters to the museum.
Schaefer had accepted a fellowship at the Getty Center for Art History and the Humanities before he decided to resign. Working at the Getty through September, he is currently finalizing the catalogue for an exhibition of 17th-Century Italian painter Guido Reni’s work.
The exhibition is the fulfillment of a long-held dream for Schaefer, a specialist in late-16th- and 17th-Century Italian painting. “It’s the only exhibition I ever wanted to do,” he said. “I came to Los Angeles (from Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts) with the idea, but it got put off” by other projects.
“I think the exhibition will be a revelation of a major painter who is little known. We’ve always associated his work with the Catholic religion,” he said, noting that religious connections can be “obstacles” to the appreciation of art.
“The Catholics put Reni’s work on their calendars because they were great paintings, but that diluted them. We lost our ability to see them,” Schaefer said. He hopes that the exhibition of 60 paintings, including two owned by the County Museum of Art and others borrowed from the Louvre and the National Museum of Bologna, Italy, will create a wider and better informed audience for Reni’s art.
Co-organized with the National Museum of Bologna and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Reni show will open in Bologna on Sept. 10, 1988, move on to Los Angeles for a December opening and close in Philadelphia in the spring of 1989.