Museum managers who want to oversee the largest collection of British art outside of London are in luck. The Yale Center for British Art has two job openings: museum director and senior curator of paintings and sculpture.
With the unexpected departure of former Director Patrick McCaughey in June and the imminent loss of senior curator Malcolm Warner, the museum is undergoing a fundamental change in leadership.
But, for the time being, few people will actually notice.
For now, the big news out of the British Art Center is that, despite the loss of a director and curator who oversaw the museum’s rebirth as a worldwide center for British art, the museum will likely do just fine.
Under the authority of Acting Director Constance Clement, the exhibitions will carry on, as will the planning of the coming year’s shows.
“It’s not that the gallery will fall silent,” Warner said.
Clement was also the interim director in 1996 during the museum’s last transition, which was highly successful.
“She’s very skilled and able to see the museum through a period of transition,” Warner said.
The museum is nevertheless losing two of its most dynamic leaders in recent memory. Both oversaw a major renovation and the assembly of one of the greatest collections of 20th century British art in the country.
“I think that the British Art Center was a backwater when I came to it,” McCaughey said. “We really put the place on the map again.”
McCaughey and Warner were effusive with praise for each other. McCaughey called Warner the “best boss you could hope to find,” and the director, in turn, called Warner the most gifted curator he had worked with in his 20-year career.
Under McCaughey’s direction, the museum experienced record crowds — reaching nearly 120,000 visitors a year — and completed an extensive renovation and rearrangement of its galleries.
In 1999, the year the renovations were finished, the museum also received a $75 million, 130 picture gift from the estate of Paul Mellon ’29, solidifying its position as a worldwide center for British art.
Leaving after such a successful run seemed difficult for both men, though Warner said he looked forward to his tenure as a curator at the Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.
“It’s no great pleasure for me to be leaving Yale, far from it,” he said. But, he added, the job at Kimball is very attractive.
Asked if McCaughey’s departure contributed to his decision to leave, Warner demurred.
“One makes these decisions on such a complicated network of reasons,” he said.
But McCaughey dismissed any suggestion that Warner’s departure might be connected to his.
“I know that he was showing distinct interest in Kimball [before I left],” he said.
McCaughey said he wanted to “explore new avenues of interest,” adding that he hopes to work in a museum sometime soon.