There is a blurb in Art in America regarding the launch of the Center for Curatorial Leadership. The CCL seeks to "train art-museum curators in the financial and managerial skills required of a museum director, with the purpose of encouraging their advancement through the ranks." Apparently, the CCL has a growing fear that the increasing number of vacant museum directorships is being filled with businessmen with MBAs rather than art historians with PhDs.
CCL founder, Elizabeth Easton, believes that "eminently educable" curators should not be passed over for consideration of running art institutions. "I believe it is easier to train curators in business and managerial skills than to train managers to be curators." Easton continues, "Curators should not be sidelined mandarins, but encouraged to care about the larger institutional mission."
Over the last few decades, museums have gone from sleepy repositories of fine art and curiosities for the rich and well-off, to high-powered and big-moneyed businesses catering to the needs and desires of a broader public. There are hundreds of small to mid-sized museums that require its leadership to wear countless hats on a daily basis. In these situations, I believe the director should be well versed in management and marketing as well as the the institution's collections and programs. A jack-of-all-trades as it were. However, for major museums such as the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), the Wadsworth Atheneum (Hartford), the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago), the Kimbell Art Museum (Ft. Worth), the National Portrait Gallery (DC) and the Phillips Collection (DC) - which all have director vacancies - I see the need for a separation between Administration and Curation. Art Museums such as these, with budgets in the millions, should let the curators create the "product" and the directors "sell" it. Hard for one person to do both... successfully.
What strikes me, however, is not the question of who is more capable of running today's art museums, rather: Is it easier to train a curator to be a businessman, or train a businessman to be a curator?
Now, please excuse me... I've suddenly got an appetite for a Reese's peanut butter cup.