The suspense is over. After six months as the interim director of the Laguna Art Museum, its chairman, Robert Hayden III, announced plans to turn over the keys to Malcolm Warner, a new executive director, effective Jan. 3.
Warner, currently deputy director of the Kimbell Art Museum in Ft. Worth, Tex., made the cut from a pool of nearly 100 applicants and whittled down to three finalists during a six month hunt by an internal search committee. A vote by the board was unanimous, said Hayden. Warner succeeds Bolton Colburn, at the museum’s helm for 14 years, who resigned in May.
Dennis Boyer, a member of the museum’s Historical Art Council as well as former senior partner of the executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles, guided the committee comprised of nine current and former board members.
“Malcolm’s wide variety of art experience was what made him so attractive. He is able to focus on the Laguna Art Museum and place it into a wider international scope by raising the bar on exhibitions and the museum’s overall profile,” said Hayden.
Warner formed his connections to the region while serving as curator of European art at the San Diego Museum of Art. “I remember many visits to Laguna Beach and they stuck in my memory. When I heard about the museum’s search for a director, I was enthusiastic about putting myself forward,” he said.
He had been a deputy director at the Kimbell since 2007 and was its acting director for 18 months.
Warner possesses a variety of assets, including a strong commitment to community outreach and education. “I heard that the position of head of education is open, and I hope to fill it with a strong person,” he said. He added that he is looking forward to immersing himself into the Laguna community. “Community outreach was part of the job description, and I am happy to oblige,” he said.
He also hopes to initiate exhibitions that reflect the museum’s mission as well as his expertise in 19th and early 20th century European painting. For example, “The Impressionists: Master Paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago,” a show he curated for the Kimbell possesses a theme he would like to revisit with a local slant. “I know my way around European art well and that is a knowledge and experience I would like to bring to staging California art,” he said. He expressed intrigue with Laguna’s origin as an art colony, a concept that began in Europe and one he would like to explore further.
Warner was born in Aldershot, England, and received his graduate and post-graduate education in London. He came to the U.S. in 1988 after marrying an American, Sara, a music teacher. His wife, daughter Maddie, 17, and son Charlie, 13 will join him in June when the school year ends, he said.
Warner takes over a museum with a membership of roughly 1,200 members and a $1.5 million operating budget, equal to last years. Gifts and grants of $671,000 comprised 42 percent of museum revenue. Expenses rose in the last fiscal year, but ended with a cash balance of $415,000, compared to last year’s $355,000.
This week, the museum opened “Best Kept Secrets,” about UC Irvine’s art instructors and the students they influenced, part of the Pacific Standard Time series.
With his keen interest in modern and contemporary art, Warner is looking forward to taking in PST shows. “I can’t think of a better time to start this job,” he said. “I expect to do a lot of running around to see everything.”