DETROIT (AP) — The director of the Detroit Institute of Arts, who helped to protect the museum's collection from possible sale during the city's bankruptcy and spearheaded a $158 million overhaul of the cultural attraction, on Thursday announced his plan to retire.
Graham Beal plans to step aside June 30 after nearly 16 years as director, president and CEO. In a statement, he offered thanks to those whose talents and passion for the museum helped bring what he described as artistic, scholarly, political and legal success.
"It has certainly been quite a ride with some amazing highs far outweighing the other kind," said Beal, 67.
Beal's tenure included 2001 to 2007 renovation and reinstallation of the museum's collection as well as approval of a 10-year property tax in 2012 from residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties to support the museum. The city's financial turmoil, however, threatened to put the museum's future in doubt.
The museum was the focus of debate over whether city-owned art should be sold to ease the blow of Detroit's bankruptcy. An $800 million promise from foundations, major corporations and the state, called the "Grand Bargain," helped protect the collection.
"Graham has also led the museum through extremely challenging economic times, developed international stature and respect for the DIA, strengthened the collection and initiated a culture change that resulted in the museum becoming more accessible to all," said Eugene Gargaro Jr., the DIA's board chairman.
Instead of the more traditional museum model of grouping objects by time period or style, the museum used techniques honed in the presentation of temporary or traveling exhibits to showcase its permanent collection. It also boosted community outreach, putting up ornately framed reproductions of some of its most significant paintings on the streets of Michigan communities as part of its "Inside/Out" series.
Gargaro is putting together a committee and will hire a firm to find a new director, the museum said.
Beal, whose bow ties were a notable fixture of his attire, is a native of Great Britain with degrees in English and art history from the University of Manchester and the Courtauld Institute of Art. He served as director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from 1996 to 1999.
Under Beal's leadership, the institute hosted "Van Gogh: Face to Face" in 2000 and "Magnificenza! The Medici, Michelangelo and the Art of Late Renaissance Florence" in 2003 among its popular exhibitions. It also organized "Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit," which opens March 15.
"It has been 10 years since I conceived of the idea for this exhibition and I draw no small pleasure that it will mark my exit as director," Beal said.
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