The 49-year-old Franklin, currently the deputy director of the National Gallery of Canada, will assume his duties in Cleveland on Sept. 20. Franklin brings to the position deep experience in exhibitions and acquisitions, as well as an international perspective as a result of having lived and worked in Canada, London, Oxford and Rome. He arrives at a key moment for the Cleveland Museum of Art, which in the next three years will complete a $350 million renovation and expansion project designed to improve the installation and interpretation of the museum's collection and enhance the experience of its visitors.
"As an international scholar who has curated many successful exhibitions and has substantial leadership experience at a large and complex museum, David possesses a rare combination of managerial and curatorial skills, making him the perfect fit for the Cleveland Museum of Art," said Alfred M. Rankin Jr., president of the museum's board of trustees and chairman, president and chief executive officer of NACCO Industries Inc. "This appointment gives us the opportunity to tap a talented professional to join an emerging group of innovative, new directors at the nation's top art museums."
As deputy director and chief curator of the National Gallery of Canada, Franklin is responsible for the core work of that museum, including its curatorial departments, art acquisitions, conservation, library and archives, and education division, which together comprise approximately one quarter of the institution's total staff of 290 and total annual operating budget of $58 million. Franklin has held the position since 2001.
"I have long admired the Cleveland Museum of Art's commitment to quality, which has given the institution a reputation for possessing among the world's finest encyclopedic holdings," said Franklin. "It is with great enthusiasm that I join the talented Cleveland staff in leading this museum into its next 100 years. I want to build upon the museum's strong traditions while increasing its focus on outreach and diversity to identify new ways to bring the collection to life and engage the regional and global audiences that the museum serves."
The museum is now finishing the final planning for its building project, which remains on budget and on schedule for completion in 2013. In June, the museum's board of trustees demonstrated once again its strong commitment to the project by voting unanimously to fund and complete this final phase.
"The new Rafael Viñoly building will act as a magnet for curious audiences, making this the moment to have a greater impact on more people than ever through Cleveland's collection and intelligent presentation of art," said Franklin. "I'm looking forward to taking an active role in Cleveland and to making the museum even more meaningful and relevant within its community."
At the National Gallery, Franklin has balanced significant leadership responsibilities with an active scholarly agenda. He is one of the museum's most visible spokespeople, representing the organization in its outreach across Canada and initiating fundraising that has secured individual and corporate support at an institution that previously had been accustomed to relying almost entirely on government funding. During his tenure, Franklin's successes have ranged from increasing art donations from individuals across Canada to securing more than $2 million for a curatorial research fund and playing a central role in a fundraising event that raised nearly $2 million for the museum in one night.
At the same time, he has curated several of the National Gallery's noteworthy special exhibitions, including Italian Drawings from the National Gallery of Canada (2001), Parmigianino (2003) and Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and the Renaissance in Florence (2005). Bernini and the Birth of Baroque Portrait Sculpture (2008), organized in partnership with the J. Paul Getty Museum, was the first major exhibition of Bernini's work in North America and the first comprehensive exhibition of the artist's portrait busts. From Raphael to Carracci: The Art of Papal Rome (2009) featured more than 150 works by artists including Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian and El Greco from lenders including the Vatican Museums, British Museum, Galleria degli Uffizi, J. Paul Getty Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Louvre, Morgan Library & Museum and National Gallery in London. Franklin is currently organizing the exhibition Caravaggio and His Circle in Rome, scheduled to debut at the National Gallery of Canada in the summer of 2011 before traveling to the United States.
"David is an individual with extraordinary ability and reputation in the field of international art scholarship," said Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum. "In the current environment, where institutions are building a growing international presence beyond bricks and mortar and across borders, David has shown a real strength in his rare ability to mount complex projects."
"David's work in organizing ambitious exhibitions is impressive, and he has demonstrated appreciation for sharing with museum visitors not only his own area of specialty but also many others, including contemporary art," said Michael J. Horvitz, chairman of the museum's board of trustees and of counsel to the law firm Jones Day.
Franklin has earned honors in Canada and abroad, including the 1995 Eric Mitchell Prize, one of the most prestigious awards given to art historians, for his publication Rosso in Italy: The Italian Career of Rosso Fiorentino. This volume also was awarded the Yale University Press Governors' Award for the most outstanding book published by an author under the age of 40. In 2009, the Italian government took note of his research, honoring Franklin with its Cavaliere dell'Ordine della Stella della Solidarieta Italiana (Knight of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity), the country's highest honor for non-Italians, awarded to those who demonstrate exceptional service that furthers Italian culture.
"In a very strong field of candidates, David quickly distinguished himself as our top choice," said R. Steven Kestner, chair of the museum's search committee and national executive partner of Baker & Hostetler LLP. "He brings an international outlook that will allow the museum to continue broadening its reach in the areas of research, exhibitions and publications. We're thrilled to welcome David and his family to Cleveland."
Franklin, a native of Québec, earned his Bachelor of Arts in art history from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. He received both his master's and doctorate degrees in European Renaissance art from the Courtauld Institute of Art at the University of London. He also was awarded an honorary Master of Arts by the University of Oxford.
He has held fellowships at Oxford's Lincoln College and All Souls College, spent four years researching and teaching Italian Renaissance art at Oxford and served as a visiting scholar at the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities in Los Angeles and the Hertziana Library in Rome.
Franklin first joined the National Gallery of Canada in 1998 as the curator of prints and drawings and within two years was promoted to deputy director. The National Gallery possesses a collection and staff similar in size to that of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Created in 1880, it is among the oldest of Canada's national cultural institutions. The museum's collection - which spans all periods of Canadian art and is particularly notable for strong holdings in prints and drawings, photography, Inuit art, modern American art and contemporary art - includes approximately 38,000 works, in addition to 161,700 images held within the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography. Annually, the museum attracts approximately 400,000 visitors to its modern, downtown Ottawa building and adds an average of 300 works of art to its collections.
"David has made outstanding contributions to our institution," said Marc Mayer, director of the National Gallery of Canada. "While we will miss him greatly, I truly believe this is his moment to take the helm of an internationally renowned museum and make optimal use of his ideas, energies and talents there."
Franklin and his wife Antonia Reiner, who holds a degree in modern languages from Oxford and is a freelance translator and fiber artist, are currently in the process of relocating to the Cleveland area with their two children. In the coming months, Franklin will work closely with Deborah Gribbon, who has served for the past year as the interim director of the Cleveland Museum of Art, to ensure a smooth transition of leadership.
Franklin's selection follows a 12-month international search that began in September 2009. The museum worked with the executive search firm of Phillips Oppenheim.
You can find a recent story about the CMA appointment here.