Luring Museum Directors

Noelle Bodick, Creative Bonuses Lure Top Museum Directors Blouin ARTINFO, 27 January 2014

Last week, the art dealer and historian Bendor Grosvenor proposed a “revolution in leadership” at British art museums, in the face of state-funding cuts. “As sad as it may be, our galleries have no choice but to learn from the American way,” he wrote. By the “American way,” Grosvenor means aggressive donor campaigns and more social media outreach. But it turns out that the American way could be synonymous, too, with creative add-ons to compensate directors, as reported by the Boston Globe this week. Digging deep into Boston nonprofits’ finances, the Globe brings to light the bonuses enjoyed by the cultural leaders in the city, which include brokering mortgages, generous stipends, and covering travel expenses of spouses. It’s all part of the strategy to woo and maintain top talent, trustees and board members say.

Here’s a run-through of the arts organization numbers reported by the Globe:

  • The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown splits the mortgage of director Michael Conforti’s million-dollar home in the Berkshires. They’ve also covered $36,563 in home improvements.
  • Malcolm Rogers, the director of the Museum of Fine Arts, received a $60,096 annual housing stipend, part of his $906,897 compensation package. President Christopher Bratton at the MFA School was compensated over $15,000 for entertaining at his home and received a $2,288 membership to a fancy club in Back Bay.
  • The Boston Symphony Orchestra pays for summer housing for managing director Mark Volpe, along with the Audi A6 he drives. His wife gets to travel for free with him on any business trips.
  • Future directors of the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum can inhabit the museum’s fourth-floor apartment, though current director Anne Hawley chooses not to; instead she receives an annual $24,000 stipend.

The list goes on.

So, want to attract American talent, Britain? Try running museums like a for-profit.