1988 Orange County Arts Preview : ART MUSEUMS : A 1988 Wish List for Those Who Manage Museums in the County

Even at museums, with their devotion to culling and comprehending the past and present, the turn of the year finds officials looking toward the future.

If Tom Magill's wishes for 1988 come true, it will be the year that the Laguna Art Museum will acquire a new director with both a national reputation and a strong knowledge of Southern California art.

"I've personally talked to several interesting applicants for the job," said Magill, chairman of the museum's board of directors, about the effort to replace William Otton as the museum's director. Otton has resigned to become president of the Art Institute of Southern California in Laguna Beach.

"There are about 60 like positions in art museums around the country that are not on the mega-level, museums around our size, and it's out on the grapevine that we're looking. We're getting interest from all over the country. I am personally very encouraged about it," Magill said.

He declined, however, to say who some of the leading candidates might be.

The New Year's wish of Paul Piazza, the new director at Santa Ana's Bowers Museum, is that the museum's major reconstruction, which begins in June, will go smoothly.

About half of the museum will close by June 1 as the renovation and expansion project begins, and the other half will close at the end of 1988 or early 1989. The whole museum will then be closed for the final nine months of the project. Bowers is scheduled to reopen in late 1989 or early 1990.

Already this week, museum staffers were hard at work packing thousands of artworks in the museum's collection for removal to storage locations that Piazza declined to disclose.

"The big challenge for the museum will be to maintain some kind of visibility even though we are going through all those changes," Piazza said. "We plan to have a number of exhibits in alternative locations in the community, smaller exhibits from the museum collection.

"Even though we will be phasing down our physical visibility because of the construction project, we will begin actively promoting and marketing the new, expanded museum that will be coming. We hope that when we reopen in the fall of 1989, it will be the cultural center the county deserves."

At the Newport Harbor Art Museum, director Kevin Consey's wish for the new year is that the museum successfully raises the money it needs for its new home in Corona del Mar and for successful architectural planning for the building. The museum is looking to raise $50 million for the project--$10 million for the land, $20 million for the building and a $20-million endowment.

Consey said the new building is expected to rise by 1992 on a 10 1/2-acre site near the intersection of MacArthur Boulevard and East Coast Highway.

Meanwhile, Renzo Piano, the Italian-born architect who has been commissioned to design the new building, will arrive on Monday for his first look at the site. "With any luck, our design will be finished by the end of the year," Consey said.

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