Matthew Teitelbaum to Retire as Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Saturday, June 22, 2024
Matthew Teitelbaum to Retire as Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), announced that Matthew Teitelbaum, Ann and Graham Gund Director and CEO since 2015, intends to retire from the Museum in August 2025, marking ten years as Director.

Under his leadership, the MFA, which was founded in 1870, has introduced new initiatives, programs and partnerships to invite, welcome and engage diverse audiences and build a more inclusive community of visitors, staff, volunteers and supporters.

“It has been a great honor to serve as the Ann and Graham Gund Director of the MFA, leading the Museum and working with one of the most remarkable collections in the world, alongside a staff without parallel. Together, we have held and acted upon the belief that art can change perceptions of the world, create strong belief in the power of community and center artists as advocates for creative change. The MFA’s best years are ahead—grounded in the commitment of its staff, Board, volunteers and visitors. We join together in believing in the MFA and its ability to share joy and encourage civic understanding, which is more important than ever,” said Teitelbaum.

“Matthew has shared one of the world’s greatest collections of art, loved by many, with the community and with undeterred commitment to standards of excellence,” said Cathy E. Minehan, Chair of the Board of Trustees. “He has done so in some of the most challenging times in the institution's history, leading with compassion and fairness, and steering the MFA toward a more stable future. We are grateful to Matthew for his steady, values-based leadership over the past decade and appreciative that we will benefit from his leadership for an additional year.”

Marc S. Plonskier, President and Chair-Elect of the Board of Trustees, added, “Matthew has created purpose and focus within the MFA to connect to younger and more diverse audiences. From the start, he has encouraged an audience-centered culture within curatorial practice—deepening visitor engagement with art and the Museum—and created innovative programs and experiences that link our rich, historical collection to the times in which we live. I look forward to continuing to partner with him in the coming year to advance the MFA as we look toward the future.” 

During his tenure, Teitelbaum has focused on the future of museums, grounding the MFA as an institution that is resilient and agile in complex times. In 2017, he unveiled MFA 2020, a Strategic Plan that articulated a forward-looking, ten-year vision for the Museum to become an institution of the moment that is more connected to its community. Since its launch, the spirit of collaboration and engagement at the core of MFA 2020 has been brought to life through the implementation of more than 64 initiatives, ranging from new programs to encourage college and university engagement to outdoor sculpture commissions and the development of new Curators Circles groups to support curatorial departments. 

These advancements are bolstered by the establishment of MFA Pathways, a comprehensive undergraduate and graduate paid internship program, and one of the largest fully-funded programs in an American art museum. During Teitelbaum’s tenure, the MFA has made a powerful commitment to creating a continuum of opportunities for the next generation of museum professionals, from the Museum’s extraordinary teen programs (STEAM Team, the Teen Arts Council, and Curatorial Study Hall) to MFA Pathways internships for undergraduate and graduate students to post-graduate fellowships and early-career curatorial assistant positions. Since the launch of MFA Pathways in 2021, Teitelbaum and the MFA have raised $37 million in support for the program.

As an outcome of the Strategic Plan, he created the Museum’s division of Learning and Community Engagement, centralizing and elevating separate functions within the MFA, and establishing a new senior leadership position of Patti and Jonathan Kraft Chief of Learning and Community Engagement. Within the new area, Teitelbaum initiated, among other programs, MFA Late Nites, and expanded the Museum’s annual community celebrations to generously welcome all of Boston’s communities, from students and artists to multigenerational audiences and beyond.

Teitelbaum has prioritized the care, stewardship and growth of the Museum’s collection. With his guidance, the MFA has demonstrated a strengthened commitment to building and presenting the collection with the highest standards of design and interpretation, creating new galleries for Dutch and Flemish art; ancient Greek, Roman, and Byzantine art; Italian Renaissance art; Egyptian art from the Middle Kingdom; Japanese art; the jewelry collection; and the Judaica collection—the first gallery dedicated to Judaica in its history. These major projects are rooted in a dedication to promoting extraordinary care for the MFA’s collection, realized by the establishment of a new Conservation Center in 2021. The 22,000-square-foot state-of-the-art center features advanced technology, enhances opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration and training and welcomes visitors to learn through close-up encounters with works of art in public-facing spaces and programming. The MFA’s Conservation Center renews the Museum’s founding commitment to the care of its irreplaceable collection while looking ahead to the future—Teitelbaum created and secured funding to fully endow positions to care for contemporary art and media, the first such permanent positions in the Museum’s history. Additionally, he created the mandate and secured enabling and sustaining gifts for the MFA’s Center for Netherlandish Art (CNA), an innovative research center for Dutch and Flemish art—the first of its kind in the United States—that opened in 2021. Fully integrated into the MFA’s program, governance and facilities, the CNA has nurtured future generations of scholars and curators through a residency fellowship program, academic partnerships and public programs, created new audiences for Dutch and Flemish art through collections-sharing and traveling exhibitions, and fostered relationships between the U.S. and the Netherlands and Belgium for generations to come. 

He has made cornerstone acquisitions, acquiring key collections and works of art, as well as purchasing anchor works to expand the collection. Landmark acquisitions include: the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo and Susan and Matthew Weatherbie collections of Dutch and Flemish art—the most substantial gift of European painting in the MFA’s history (2017); the Wan-go H.C. Weng Collection—the largest and most significant gift of Chinese paintings and calligraphy in the MFA’s history (2018); the Howard Greenberg Collection of Photographs, funded by a major gift from the Phillip Leonian and Edith Rosenbaum Leonian Charitable Trust—comprised of 447 photographs by 191 artists, including rare prints of modernist masterpieces and mid-20th-century classics (2018); the Richard (Dick) E. Caves Collection of more than 2,000 modern and contemporary prints, radically transforming the MFA’s holdings of contemporary prints (2022); a gift of 34 paintings, drawings and watercolors by Piet Mondrian from Maria and Conrad Janis by and through the Janis Living Trust, which elevated the MFA to one of the leading institutions outside the Netherlands for the study and display of the artist’s early work (2023); the Leslie and Johanna Garfield Collection—a partial gift and partial purchase by the Museum—comprised of more than 450 works by 55 artists associated with the early 20th-century school of the Provincetown Printers (2022); and five major sculptures by Cy Twombly donated by the Cy Twombly Foundation in parallel with funding the endowment of a new conservator for contemporary art (2023). Further, through purchases and gifts, Teitelbaum established “collections of record” for two Boston artists, John Wilson (1922-2015) and Hyman Bloom (1913-2009). The MFA was the first museum in the United States to employ a curator of provenance—a commitment that Teitelbaum has deepened through the creation of a provenance department, increasing staff and setting and sustaining the highest standards of practice.

Notable exhibitions during Teitelbaum’s tenure—including Philip Guston Now (2022), Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation (2020) and Gender Bending Fashion (2019), among others—have engaged with timely issues, presented new curatorial scholarship, and incorporated the perspectives and expertise of outside voices. He established Table of Voices in 2019, a program designed to embed a range of community voices in the interpretative experience and design of exhibitions and collections. The program has created a supportive structure for community engagement and has become a model for co-creation, shared expertise and shared authority in the interpretation of works of art. Other recent exhibitions have included Ansel Adams in Our Time (2018-19), Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence (2023) and Fashioned by Sargent (2023-24).

Prior to his appointment as the 11th Director of the MFA, Teitelbaum served as the Michael and Sonja Koerner Director and CEO of the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. A scholar of contemporary, European and Canadian art, he holds a Bachelor of Arts with honors in Canadian history from Carleton University; a Master of Philosophy in modern European painting and sculpture from the Courtauld Institute of Art, London; and an honorary Doctor of Laws from Queen’s University. He is a past president of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) and recently served as Chair of the Bizot Group (International Group of Organizers of Large Scale Exhibitions). Teitelbaum has been honored with the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government for his ongoing commitment and contributions to the arts; the RCA Medal from the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts for his outstanding support to the development of the visual arts in Canada; the Canadian Centre for Diversity’s Human Relations Award; and the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA) Award for arts leadership. In 2019, he was appointed as a Member of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honor, which recognizes individuals who make extraordinary contributions to the nation.

Stephanie Cime

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Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.


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