Maxwell L. Anderson is Executive Director of the New Cities Foundation, and Chairman of its affiliated organization, the Global Cultural Districts Network. Anderson leads NCF’s professional staff around the world and liaises with the Board of Directors to address the urgent and important needs of cities on every continent. He develops NCF’s focus on urban innovation, with an emphasis on how place-making and digital platforms can improve the lives of city dwellers internationally.
Anderson has devoted his career to advancing the mission of non-profit institutions, while creating best practices to insure their development and sustainability. He has long sought to address challenges facing the cultural sector, from operational efficiency to programmatic relevance, transparent business practices, community engagement, cultural property ownership disputes, and the impact of digital platforms on communications. Throughout almost 30 years as an art museum director, he assisted mayors and city governments in improving their cities through the provision of vibrant cultural offerings.
In 2015 Anderson joined the leadership of the New Cities Foundation, broadening his work with cities beyond the needs of cultural institutions to urban concerns in multiple sectors. The Foundation is an independent non-profit organization whose mission is to shape a better urban future for all. Anderson’s experience in international affairs within the cultural sector is integral to his duties at the Foundation. His focus is on improving the quality of urban life through insightful investment in cities’ distinctive attributes, along with increased efficiency in transportation, infrastructure, and public services.
NCF conducts pragmatic research on solutions to challenges facing cities, launches initiatives to drive urban progress, and builds, empowers, and convenes a global network in support of its goals. The Foundation convenes the leading events on urban innovation, including the annual New Cities Summit, usually drawing over 800 participants from more than 40 nations. In all of its activities, NCF works with entrepreneurs and leaders from business, government, academia, civil society, the media and the arts. The Foundation was created in 2010 and is financed by its members and partners, which include some of the most forward-thinking companies sharing a passion for the future of our cities. NCF is incorporated in Geneva and its head office is in Montreal, with smaller offices in Paris, Zurich, Hong Kong, and New York.
Prior to his appointment as NCF’s Executive Director, Anderson directed art museums in five North American cities: Atlanta, Toronto, New York, Indianapolis, and Dallas.
In 1988 as director of the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University in Atlanta (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). He is a research affiliate at the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, where he is pursuing his current book project titled 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.