Barnes Foundation Names New Director
The Barnes Foundation has named its new director. Thom Collins comes here from Miami, where he was director of the Perez Art Museum Miami. Collins is a native Philadelphian.
Mr. Collins, 46, who also served for five years as director of the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, N.Y., said he was drawn to the Barnes not only because it was one of the places where he first learned about art while growing up in the Philadelphia suburbs, but also because of the philosophy of its founder, Albert C. Barnes, a pharmaceutical tycoon who cast it more as a teaching institution than as a traditional museum.
“I’ve always thought of myself as an educator,” said Mr. Collins, who added that he felt that the Barnes had “really never been able to bridge to that great academic community in and around Philadelphia” — schools like the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, Drexel University and Swarthmore College, his undergraduate alma mater.
Asked his opinion about the Barnes’s relocation from the suburb of Merion — permitted in a 2004 court decision that circumvented the charter and bylaws of Barnes, who had stipulated that his collection could not be lent, sold or moved from its original home — Mr. Collins said: “To me it seems like an unqualified success. I have no reservations now about it at all, and I wouldn’t be going there if I did.”
The Miami Herald talks about his achievements there:
Thom Collins, who ushered the former Miami Art Museum into its lauded new bayfront home — and into a new name — is leaving his position as director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami to lead the acclaimed Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia.
After opening its new Herzog & de Meuron-designed campus to critical praise in December of 2013, the museum saw attendance soar to 300,000 — compared to 60,000 at its former home. Membership grew from about 1,000 households to more than 9,000. And Collins said he expects PAMM to meet its private fundraising goal of $120 million before the end of this year.
“To have PAMM now at a moment of not just stability but real strength and momentum makes this a whole lot easier,” said Collins, who joined the museum after spending five years as director of the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, New York. Earlier jobs included director of the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore and chief curator at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati.
Collins will take over in mid-March.