Maxwell L. Anderson has been The Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art since January 2012.
Beginning with his first museum directorship in 1987, Maxwell L. Anderson has pursued solutions to challenges facing art museums internationally. 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of the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University (1987-1995), he inaugurated a series of loan projects highlighting unpublished treasures from the storerooms of some of the world’s leading museums in London, Paris, Rome, Mexico City, and elsewhere, looking for alternatives to buying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, assuring 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 pioneered complete transparency in museums through the art world’s first true 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, with a successful outcome 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.
Since arriving at the Dallas Museum of Art, he has launched a program in paintings conservation, added staff and programming dedicated to Islamic art, raised over $33 million for the Museum’s endowment and special projects, made significant additions to the permanent collection, signed memoranda of understanding with Turkey and Italy and is preparing MOUs with other nations 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 program offering free membership. The DMA has 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.
As chairman of the Dallas Arts District Foundation, he oversees the planning and coordination of the largest arts district in the United States. He is co-chair of the Global Cultural Districts Network, which seeks to assist leading cultural districts worldwide in planning, developing, operating, and programming, and 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 serves on the boards of the New Cities Foundation, the National Committee for the History of Art, the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, and the American Federation of Arts.
Anderson’s recent book, The Quality Instinct: Seeing Art Through a Museum Director’s Eye, was published by the American Alliance of Museums and is distributed by the University of Chicago Press.
He is married to Jacqueline Buckingham Anderson, and they have two children, Chase and Devon.