October 26, 2009 | 6:00pm
Just days after unveiling the final design for its new location in Bicentennial Park, Miami Art Museum announced that director Terence Riley has resigned, effective immediately.
"We are now ready to break ground on a building that is poised to be one of the greenest art museums ever built in the Americas. As such, this is the right moment for me to pursue other interests and for MAM to smoothly transition to a new leader who will see this project to its fruition," Riley said in a statement.
The shocking and swift announcement is a setback for Miami's status as an upcoming art mecca and comes at a key time for MAM.
Riley came to MAM from New York's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), where he was a chief curator since 1992. At MAM, Riley spearheaded fundraising efforts for the museum's new building and greatly increased the size and quality of the museum's collection. He helped elevate MAM's profile and future, but tough work is still ahead for whoever replaced him.
"The entire art world knows that Miami and MAM are on the cusp of becoming leading centers for art internationally, and the opportunity to lead MAM at this moment in time is both compelling and exciting," Riley said in January 2006 during his announcement as MAM's new director. But he won't be around to see it come to fruition.
No reason was given for his resignation, other than that Riley will resume his role as partner at Keenen/Riley Architects. A source close to the museum who asked not to be named said Riley has a partner in New York and wanted to be closer. He bought a home in the Design District, and his car had been broken into several times, the source added.
More importantly, with the tight economy, some major financial museum supporters have cut back endowment promises recently. And Riley still has connections in New York, where major players in the art world abound. "He was getting burnt out," the source said. "He was tired of dealing with the bureaucracy."
Riley will continue to work with the museum as a consultant until June 30, 2010. A search committee is being formed to find his replacement.