Maxwell L. Anderson
Director, Dallas Museum of Art
Maxwell L. Anderson recaps his first year as Director of the Dallas Museum of Art, and looks ahead to the launch of free admission and free membership coming to the DMA.
Anderson details plans to keep the museum’s offerings continually refreshed, in part through pieces loaned from foreign governments. Also, learn how new technology is being designed to enhance the experience of visitors to the DMA.
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Maxwell L. Anderson has been The Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art since January 2012. Beginning with his first museum directorship in 1987, he has pursued solutions to challenges facing art museums internationally. In 1988 as director of the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University (1987-1995), he inaugurated a series of loan projects highlighting unpublished treasures from the storerooms of some of the world’s leading museums in London, Paris, Rome, Mexico City, and elsewhere, looking for alternatives to buying antiquities from the illicit trade. As director of the Whitney Museum of American Art (1998-2003) he initiated the first multinational art purchase, a work by Bill Viola today jointly owned by the Whitney Museum, the Pompidou, and the Tate, to cope with the large scale of many contemporary artworks in variable media.
He has long championed the rights of artists to receive fair tax treatment when donating works of art to museums. Shortly after the attacks of September 11th, as chair of its Art Issues Committee, he introduced a successful motion at the Association of Art Museum Directors to forego terrorism insurance, assuring that U.S. and international loan exhibitions could continue uninterrupted. Four months before the onset of hostilities in Iraq, in November 2002, he co-authored an op-ed piece in The Washington Post warning against looting of museums and destruction of sites in the event of an invasion, and helped lead a delegation to the Pentagon to press the case. His seminal 2004 essay for the Getty Leadership Institute, titled “Metrics of Success for Art Museums,” was called an “influential broadside” regarding the proper evaluation of museum performance by The Washington Post.
In 2006, as The Melvin & Bren Simon Director and CEO of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, he pioneered complete transparency in museums through the art world’s first true Dashboard chronicling real-time performance measures as well as complete documentation of and rationale for the deaccessioning of artworks, including posting valuations of prospective sales prior to placing objects in the art market. In 2007 he urged U.S. art museums to adopt 1970 as a bright line when considering acquisitions of archaeological material and ancient art, with a successful outcome in 2008. Anderson joined a lawsuit against every prosecutor in the State of Indiana to strike down a statute abridging freedom of expression.
In 2010, he advocated the relaxation of environmental control standards in art museums to save energy and reduce waste. He helped launch two consecutive projects to build international libraries of digital media documenting the collections and activities of art museums—one for still images (AMICO), and one for video (ArtBabble). In 2011 he led the formation of a partnership between the Association of Art Museum Directors and the United Negro College Fund to create a national program incentivizing students of color to enter the art museum profession.
Since arriving at the Dallas Museum of Art, he has launched a program in paintings conservation, added a specialist in Islamic art to the staff, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Republic of Turkey and is preparing MOUs with other nations as part of an art-for-expertise exchange program named DMX, and founded a Laboratory for Museum Innovation with seed capital to develop collaborative pilot projects in the areas of collections access, visitor engagement, and digital publishing. In the fall of 2012 he announced the DMA’s return to a policy of free general admission as well as a novel program offering free membership. He is at work to link the Dallas Arts District–the nation’s largest–with other leading cultural districts worldwide.
Anderson received an A.B. from Dartmouth College with highest distinction in art history (1977), and A.B. (1978) and PhD. (1981) degrees in art history from Harvard University.
Anderson’s recent book, The Quality Instinct: Seeing Art Through a Museum Director’s Eye, was published by the American Alliance of Museums and is distributed by the University of Chicago Press.