Thomas Collins Replaces Terence Riley as Miami Art Museum Director

Categories: Art, News
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Former MAM director Suzanne Delehanty and new director Thomas Collins
Moving at a glacial pace towards a new home at Bicentennial Park, the Miami Art Museum made some progress Thursday. Thomas "Thom" Collins has been named its new director.

The museum had been without a director since December, when Terence Riley abruptly resigned.
Collins, a relatively young director who now oversees the private Neuberger Museum in New York, is in for a ride.

When he resigned, Riley told New Times MAM's expansion was "more complex politically than virtually any other project I'm aware of." He later expanded, saying, "There's a pretty long list of directors who've probably ruined their careers getting involved in a building program. It could be career tragedy."

As we reported in a story in March, the museum's expansion hinges on both public and private money, and has hit several roadblocks in the decade it's been in the works.

The project is behind schedule. It was originally supposed be completed by next year, but now backers say it will just break ground by the end of 2010. Without even a sign at the park that says "future home of," Miami-Dade has already spent nearly $20 million in planning and design fees.

Adding to the director's complicated job is red tape. The land where the new museum will be built is owned by the city, but the county controls its purse strings.  And local collectors have shunned the project. Marty Margulies, one of the major collectors in town, questioned the county's commitment in March, and backers' ability to raise money.

Out of $100 million the board of trustees has to raise in private funds, only $31 million have been pledged so far, county manager George Burgess said in May.

The board of trustees, seeking to shore up confidence in the project, had been scrambling to fill Riley's position. Just two weeks ago, the museum's flack told New Times the board was nowhere near a selection.

But Collins must have wowed them. In his 40s, he has risen quickly through the ranks. In 1997, he was just a curatorial fellow at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, but soon after he was the chief curator at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati.

His first day will be August 16.
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