On Thursday, the Harvard Art Museums director Thomas W. Lentz announced that he would be stepping down from his position on July 1. The news comes just months after the museum’s highly anticipated redesign and expansion by the Renzo Piano Building Workshop, led by Mr. Lentz.
Director since 2003, Mr. Lentz spearheaded major change for the school’s disparate and many museums, which include the Fogg Museum, the Busch-Reisinger Museum, and the Arthur M. Sackler, and its 250,000 piece art collection. He reorganized curatorial departments in order for collections to be shared between institutions, and instituted the Division of Academic and Public Programs, meant to facilitate education initiatives within the school community and to the broader public.
But the new 204,000-square-foot facility that opened on November 16 with the inaugural exhibition “Mark Rothko’s Harvard Murals” is perhaps what he’ll be remembered for most. The expansion project took over a decade to complete. It unites the school’s museums under one, expanded roof that includes 50 galleries, a 5,000-square-foot art-study center, 300-seat lecture hall, and the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies. Mr. Lentz gathered over $250 million in funds for the project.
Harvard University’s president Drew Faust told the Harvard Gazette, “His vision did not just include the creation of exhilarating new spaces, but the reconceptualization of the place of art—and the museums’ treasures—in the curriculum and in the life of the University and its wider community.”
“Tom’s vision for the museums encompassed much more than infrastructure improvements,” remarked provost Alan M. Garber, also to the Gazette. “He wanted to ensure that they took their rightful place at the center of University life, seeing them as integral to teaching and learning, and relevant to all disciplines.”
“The museums have been taken apart and put back together again to create a new kind of teaching facility that is already realizing its potential, so in large part our goal has been accomplished,” said Mr. Lentz in a statement. His full statement is available in Harvard Magazine. The Gazette reports that Harvard will begin its search for a new director immediately.