NEW YORK (AP) — Arnold Lehman, the director of the Brooklyn Museum since 1997, has announced he will retire next year.
Under his leadership, the museum doubled its attendance and endowment and drew a younger and more diverse audience. But Lehman is probably most recognized for a 1999 exhibition that included a work depicting the Virgin Mary adorned with elephant dung. That prompted a much publicized dispute between the museum and then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who threatened to cut off New York City's funding to the museum.
During his tenure, the number of minority groups made up 40 percent of visitors, and the average visitor age was about 35, more than 20 years younger than in 1997, the museum said.
Programming and crowd-pleasing shows contributed to the demographic change, with exhibitions ranging from Claude Monet and John Singer Sargent to Hip Hop and fashion. Lehman also introduced First Saturdays, a highly popular program that features live music, food and wine when the museum stays open free until 11 p.m. on the first Saturday of each month.
He also embraced technology, creating crowd-sourced activities and exhibitions.
Lehman also showed a commitment for the work of Brooklyn artists and feminist art. The Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art is the first museum-centered focus on feminist art in the country.
The museum's McKim, Mead & White entrance also got a redesign under Lehman, getting a new glass canopy, lobby and public plaza in 2004. He has initiated work on new Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Southeast Asian and Islamic galleries, which are scheduled to open in 2016.
The Brooklyn Museum's renowned costume collection was transferred to The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2007, in what the museum said is one of the largest collection-sharing initiatives in museum history.
Lehman announced his plans to retire in mid-2015 to the board of trustees at a meeting Tuesday. The board will form a search committee for a new director.