With regard to funding, donors want to know where their money is going and be part of something transformative, she says.
Koshalek “was terrific, visionary,” Caplan says, and any new director will have to generate the big ideas and work within a Smithsonian hierarchy she characterizes as “lacking inclusiveness.”
Kurin, the undersecretary, says the museum needs a visionary, “but also someone who can manage a complex organization. If you see something at the edge, a new wave of creativity, people rally around that. But the plan must be executable and meet the demands and resources of the Smithsonian.” Among those demands: vagaries of the economy or the congressionally mandated budget cuts known as the sequester.
Tensions between the big ideas and securing funding for them are long-standing and central to the art world. “I often speak about this as redesigning the locomotive while it’s running down the tracks, ”says Timothy Rub, director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and president of the Association of Art Museum Directors.
The Hirshhorn occupies a special place and “you look for a director who is committed to sustaining a bold schedule of exhibitions and programs,” Rub says. “For someone who can be a very persuasive voice in Washington and nationally about the work of contemporary artists.” At the same time, “any director today, and this is certainly true with the Hirshhorn, has to be talented diplomatically and have both a taste and a gift for constituent management. It comes with the territory.”
Kurin is forward-looking. Plans to transform the south side of the Mall, and include the museum as part of a larger precinct, may be coming by the end of the year, he says. Plans “to really open up the Hirshhorn. We have a garden but it’s hidden. You can’t go from East to West.” Architecturally, there are elements that can achieve the same goals as the Bubble would have, he says. We want “a lightness of being and less bunker mentality.” Such changes might take decades, however, and Kurin wants the new Hirshhorn director to be around for at least half of that time.