Proper Pedigree for LACMA Post : Graham Beal brings a stellar reputation to art museum

After a long and sometimes painful search for a new director, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has found the person with the right credentials to run its artistic programs.

Graham W.J. Beal was born and educated in Britain. He was chief curator at the Walker Center in Minneapolis and the San Francisco Museum of Art. Most recently, he was the director at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Neb.

Beal is a specialist in contemporary art but his expertise reaches back to the 17th century, a cultural scope that fits the demands of a museum with LACMA's characteristics. His peers praise the new director as a scholar, a sophisticate and, said one, "everything you need in a museum director."

The acquisition, conservation and exhibition of art are important parts of the new director's responsibilities, but being a county museum, LACMA presents special challenges for Beal, who must improve its programs for education and community outreach.

His reputed ability to work with people will prove a prime asset in Los Angeles. Beal will have to put his new house in order and raise the morale of a group of curators and employees who have been without a leader since Earl "Rusty" Powell left LACMA to head the National Gallery of Art in Washington in 1992. The 48-year-old successor must retrieve, enhance and maintain the premier reputation that Powell brought to LACMA.

To achieve this goal he will be working in tandem with the dynamic Andrea Rich, the recently named president and chief executive officer of the museum. In an experiment yet to be tested, LACMA's board of trustees decided that the traditional dual role of director as chief administrator/artistic director should be split. Rich and Beal will demonstrate whether this approach can work. Southern California and the nation's art world will be watching.

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