Maxwell L. Anderson is Executive Director of the New Cities Foundation, and Chairman of its affiliated organization, the Global Cultural Districts Network. He develops NCF’s focus on urban innovation, with an emphasis on how digital platforms can improve the lives of city dwellers internationally. His experience in international affairs within the cultural sector, along with multiple achievements in harnessing digital media for community engagement, corporate transparency, and mission-focused communications, figures into his duties at the Foundation, along with other endeavors to improve the quality of urban life through strategic investments, advocacy, and foundation alliances.
Anderson has devoted his career to fostering scholarship, engaging the public, enlivening institutions and advancement of their mission, and creating structures and best practices that insure their development and efficiency. He has sought to address challenges facing the cultural sector, from operational sustainability to programmatic relevance, transparent business practices, community engagement, art ownership disputes, and the impact of digital platforms on communications.
In 1988 as director of the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University (1987-1995), he inaugurated a series of loan projects highlighting unpublished treasures from the storerooms of some of the world’s leading museums in London, Paris, Rome, Mexico City, and elsewhere, looking for alternatives to buying antiquities from the illicit trade. As director of the Whitney Museum of American Art (1998-2003) he initiated the first multinational art purchase, a work by Bill Viola today jointly owned by the Whitney Museum, the Pompidou, and the Tate, to cope with the large scale of many contemporary artworks in variable media.
He has long championed the rights of artists to receive fair tax treatment when donating works of art to museums. Shortly after the attacks of September 11th, as chair of its Art Issues Committee, he introduced a successful motion at the Association of Art Museum Directors to forego terrorism insurance, helping assure that U.S. and international loan exhibitions could continue uninterrupted. Four months before the onset of hostilities in Iraq, in November 2002, he co-authored an op-ed piece in The Washington Post warning against looting of museums and destruction of sites in the event of an invasion, and helped lead a delegation to the Pentagon to press the case. His seminal 2004 essay for the Getty Leadership Institute, titled “Metrics of Success for Art Museums,” was called an “influential broadside” regarding the proper evaluation of museum performance by The Washington Post.
In 2006, as The Melvin & Bren Simon Director and CEO of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, he advocated transparency in museum practice through a Dashboard chronicling real-time performance measures as well as complete documentation of and rationale for the deaccessioning of artworks, including posting valuations of prospective sales prior to placing objects in the art market. In 2007 he urged U.S. art museums to adopt 1970 as a bright line when considering acquisitions of archaeological material and ancient art, and helped lead the Association of Art Museum Directors to that standard in 2008. That same year Anderson joined a lawsuit against every prosecutor in the State of Indiana to strike down a statute abridging freedom of expression.
In 2010, he advocated the relaxation of environmental control standards in art museums to save energy and reduce waste. He helped launch two consecutive projects to build international libraries of digital media documenting the collections and activities of art museums—one for still images (AMICO), and one for video (ArtBabble). In 2011 he led the formation of a partnership between the Association of Art Museum Directors and the United Negro College Fund to create a national program incentivizing students of color to enter the art museum profession.
After being appointed director of the Dallas Museum of Art in the summer of 2011, he launched a program in paintings conservation, added staff and programming dedicated to Islamic art, securing a 15-year renewable loan of the Keir Collection, raised over $40 million for the Museum’s endowment and special projects, made significant additions to the permanent collection, signed memoranda of understanding with Turkey and Italy as part of an art-for-expertise exchange program named DMX, and founded a Laboratory for Museum Innovation with seed capital to develop collaborative pilot projects in the areas of collections access, visitor engagement, and digital publishing. In the fall of 2012 he announced the DMA’s return to a policy of free general admission as well as a novel loyalty program, DMA Friends, today with over 100,000 members. During his directorship, the DMA also embarked on an unprecedented partnership with the University of Texas at Dallas, providing offices and seminar spaces for the newly established Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History. He stepped down from the Dallas Museum of Art in September 2015 to join the leadership team of the New Cities Foundation.
As chairman of the Dallas Arts District Foundation from 2013-2015, he oversaw the planning and coordination of the largest arts district in the United States. He co-chaired the June 2014 New Cities Summit, which attracted over 800 delegates from 41 nations to the Dallas Arts District for a gathering to improve the future of cities. In the summer of 2014 he oversaw the inaugural US edition of Art Everywhere, the largest public service campaign in history, yielding tens of thousands of outdoor media replicas of American art from five leading art museums.
Anderson received an A.B. from Dartmouth College with highest distinction in art history (1977), and A.B. (1978) and PhD. (1981) degrees in art history from Harvard University. He was decorated as a Commendatore dell’Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana (Knight Commander in the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic) in 1990, and decorated with the rank of Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters of the French Republic) in 2010.
He is the author of dozens of publications including the monograph Pompeian Frescoes in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, along with The Quality Instinct: Seeing Art Through a Museum Director’s Eye (American Alliance of Museums, distributed by the University of Chicago Press). His current book project is Antiquities: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2016).
He is married to Jacqueline Buckingham Anderson, and they have two children, Chase and Devon.