After nearly a decade, Brian T. Allen, director of the Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy, is preparing to leave Andover behind to lead the oldest art museum in New York.
Allen has been named director of the museum and vice president of the New York Historical Society. Founded in 1804, the Historical Society is the oldest art museum in New York and has a collection consisting of 1.6 million objects.
He will stay on at Addison through December, allowing Phillips time to hire his replacement.
Allen joined Addison in August 2004 and oversaw a multi-million-dollar, three-story expansion and renovation of the circa 1930 gallery designed by Charles Platt. The 13,770-square-foot expansion, which opened in 2010, includes a Museum Learning Center, restored gallery space, new office space and expanded climate-controlled storage areas to accommodate Addison’s collection, which has grown to 17,000 objects in all media.
“The Addison is a jewel among museums — and after much devoted and often difficult work — the jewel has been reset,” Allen is quoted as saying at the end of the project, which saw the gallery space closed to the public for almost two years.
During his tenure at Addison — the first museum devoted entirely to American art when it opened in 1931, Allen also is credited with supervising the creation and installation of scores of exhibitions. Addison’s programming has been featured in local and national media and has drawn record numbers of visitors, according to school officials. “The Coming of Age” show, which traveled to Venice, London, Dallas, Quebec City and Fort Lauderdale, attracted 538,000 visitors in the various venues.
Allen will stay on through the end of the year to see upcoming retrospectives of the work of Robert Arneson and Alfred Maurer; a show on the work of Edward Hopper, Stuart Davis, Georgia O’Keeffe and other famed American modernists, and an exhibit on the vision of New York dealer Allan Stone.
Prior to joining Addison, Allen had worked since 1997 as director of collections and exhibitions and curator of American art at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, which is affiliated with Williams College.
In addition to receiving a doctorate in art history from Yale University in Connecticut in 1998, Allen holds a law degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law, a master’s degree in art history from Williams College and a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University in Connecticut. Prior to his museum career, he worked as chief of staff for the president pro tempore of the Connecticut General Assembly and practiced law with the firm of Day, Berry & Howard, which has offices in Boston and Hartford and Stamford, Conn.
At the New York Historical Society, Allen will replace Linda Ferber, a historian of American art who will remain with the museum as a senior art historian and continue to conduct research and write about the institution’s collection.
Phillips’ Associate Head of School Becky Sykes will lead the search for Allen’s successor in its first phase, in collaboration with a trustee-faculty search advisory committee. School officials hope to make a selection by late fall.