All very nice, except for one thing: The Corcoran isn’t interested. Gallery executives have had it up to here with Reynolds’s attempted end run around the genteel norms of cultural Washington — a world where the less said, the better. They say Reynolds’s proposed radical reshaping would destroy Washington’s oldest private art museum, located just blocks from the White House, along with the related Corcoran College of Art and Design.
Yet the rebuffed Reynolds persists in his relentlessly public campaign to gain a seat on the Corcoran’s board of trustees. He says he can help. He wants to be named chairman.
The current chairman, venture capitalist and art collector Harry F. Hopper III, is not talking publicly about Reynolds. But some of Hopper’s peers in the national art world brim with amazed reaction to a spectacle they have never seen before.
“It’s an unusual situation, absolutely, in that it seems to be more like a corporate boardroom maneuver, where someone is trying to come in and take over,” said Harry Philbrick, museum director at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, which, like the Corcoran, pairs a museum with an art school. “Certainly there are [attempted] changes of leadership in the art world, but they happen in a low-key, behind-the-scenes sort of way.”
“If it’s ever happened before, I’m not aware of it,” said Ford Bell, president of the American Alliance of Museums. “Anything he does could be disruptive to what the board and the current leadership of the museum have been working toward for quite a while.”
Reynolds, 56, is unapologetic.
“Do I have a choice?” Reynolds said. “Harry Hopper has told the board not to talk to me, not to meet with me. It’s not really a reflection of me. It’s a reflection of the way they operate their board. . . . We’re staging a revolution. ”
By Friday afternoon, 50 people had RSVP’d to the activist group Save the Corcoran, which is organizing the reception set for next Friday at 5 p.m. Reynolds will pick up the $10,000 tab. Worried the crowd will grow too large for the 300-capacity banquet room, he emphasized that the reception is intended for the Corcoran community — students, faculty and staff.
“The Corcoran is outraged at Mr. Reynolds’s reckless publicity campaign waged against the very institution he seeks to appoint himself to lead,” Mimi Carter, Corcoran vice president of marketing and communications, said in an e-mailed statement. “The Corcoran’s Board of Trustees and staff remain focused on finishing the diligent work that is currently underway — without outside distractions — to lead the institution to a sustainable model for its future.”