Appointments Museums USA

San Francisco museum professionals up in arms about curator’s departure

Long-standing curator of painting and sculpture leaves just before Vermeer show

Orr worked on the de Young's forthcoming exhibition "Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis"

Museum professionals in San Francisco have voiced concerns over the departure of Lynn Orr from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco after 29 years of service as the curator in Charge of European Art. Orr suddenly left the museums in late November prior to the launch of the exhibition, “Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis”, at the de Young Museum (26 January-2 June), which she helped organise. The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco encompass the de Young and Legion of Honor museums.

Gary Garrels, the senior curator of painting and sculpture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, called Orr “the model curator, with integrity, scholarship and a deep network of connections”. Robert Flynn Johnson, the curator emeritus at the Fine Arts Museums, says that “with her length of service and curatorial expertise, Ms Orr was part of the solution, not part of the problem at the Fine Arts Museums”.

The Art Newspaper understands that Orr was dismissed from her post and that her employment was terminated for “performance reasons”. Ken Garcia, the director of government and community affairs at the Fine Arts Museums, says: “It is our policy that we do not discuss personnel matters.” When asked if the three trustee boards at the Fine Arts Museums had approved the move, he responded that the boards do not involve themselves in staff matters other than the appointment of the director.

The three trustee boards include the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, a charitable trust department of the city and the private organisation, the Corporation of the Fine Arts Museums. The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco have been without a director since John Buchanan died in December 2011. The museums are conducting a search to fill the position.

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29 Jan 13
14:39 CET


I worked with Lynn Orr for many years. She is a curator with impeccable scholarship and depth of knowledge, and was a great steward of the museums collections. She also faced a demanding exhibition schedule with dedication and enthusiasm, and her departure is a great loss for FAMSF and their visitors.

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