Thom Collins, director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), announced late on Wednesday that he would be leaving the museum to become the director of the highly respected Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia.
The museum's deputy director for external affairs, Leann Standish, will become the interim director after Collins departs in March. The search for a new director will be led by trustee Dennis Scholl who is also the Vice President of Arts at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Collins' decision to leave is amicable. The Philadelphia native told the Miami Herald "It's a great moment of homecoming for me, and I'm very pleased about that." Museum board leaders said that "they were not surprised that he was courted by a high-profile new employer."
Collins' tenure at PAMM hasn't exactly been the easiest. Aside from ushering the PAMM into their tony Herzog & de Meuron-designed space, his time at the museum was also marked by the renaming controversy and an infamously smashed Ai Weiwei vase. Collins insisted that the removal of promised county subsidies and the PAMM's precarious financial state did not play a role in his decision to leave. "Conversations with the Barnes Foundation started in June," the Herald reported, "predating the budget issue."
Collins' move to the Barnes Foundation is a major promotion; the small collection is generally considered one of the finest in the United States. "It will be a privilege to lead the Barnes Foundation in its next chapter," Collins said in a statement. "With its world-class collection, critically acclaimed new building, award-winning programs, growing membership and engaging array of courses in art and horticulture, the Barnes has become increasingly accessible to a more diverse audience than ever before. I look forward to working with the staff and Trustees to further its mission."
Collins' somewhat rocky tenure at PAMM might well prepare him to head the Barnes Foundation. The "critically acclaimed new building" to which Collins referred to in his statement is located in downtown Philadelphia. The museum's relocation to that site --from a pastoral Philadelphia suburb -- was the final result of lengthy and expensive legal battles that have only recently come to a close. Many critics and preservationists decried the move. Art critic Jed Perl described the Barnes' new building as "the world's most elegant petting zoo."