Orange County Museum of Art Director and Chief Executive Officer Dennis Szakacs resigns

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Orange County Museum of Art Director and Chief Executive Officer Dennis Szakacs resigns
Szakacs has served as OCMA’s Director and CEO since April, 2003.

NEWPORT BEACH, CA.- The Orange County Museum of Art announced today that Dennis Szakacs, OCMA Director and Chief Executive Officer, will resign his post, effective December 31, 2013. Szakacs has served as OCMA’s Director and CEO since April, 2003, and will be available as a consultant to the museum through the middle of next year.

Said OCMA President and Board Chair, Craig Wells, “The OCMA Board, staff and art community recognize and appreciate the contribution Dennis has made to elevating the stature and significance of OCMA and bringing us closer to our vision to ‘build a destination museum that is locally relevant and internationally significant.’ His artistic integrity, entrepreneurial thinking and public engagement have helped propel us to where we are today and set our direction for the next decade and beyond. This is an exciting time for OCMA and all of us here wish Dennis well in his next endeavor.”

Said Szakacs: “I’ve had a fantastic decade at the museum building OCMA’s exhibition program to international prominence, strengthening the collection, increasing access to visual arts education and raising the support and visibility for modern and contemporary art in our community. After achieving these goals, it’s now time for me to explore new opportunities. I’ll miss working with our exceptional staff and board, but leave with great confidence in the museum and look forward to collaborating with OCMA in the future.”

The OCMA Board has formed a search committee and the museum has retained the international firm of Heidrick & Struggles to conduct a search for its next Director and CEO.

OCMA Milestones 2003 to 2013
Szakacs’ directorship is the longest in the fifty-plus year history of the museum. During his tenure, OCMA’s annual budget increased from $2.5 million to nearly $5 million, its endowment grew from $7 million to $11 million and the museum’s facilities were renovated and updated. Szakacs helped transform the organization into one of the finest museums of its size in the country, with an ambitious exhibition program that rivals that of much larger museums, and groundbreaking educational programs that explore new and better ways of connecting people with art. Under his leadership, 15 OCMA-organized exhibitions traveled to 37 museums across the U.S. and abroad and more than 20 exhibition catalogs were published or co-published – key measures of scholarly and artistic leadership.

These exhibitions toured to museums such as the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; Vancouver Art Gallery; Ludwig Museum, Cologne; Wexner Center for the Arts; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Modern Art Museum, Fort Worth; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Aspen Art Museum; Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston; Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover; Minneapolis Institute of Arts; The Jewish Museum, New York; Site Santa Fe, and the Bronx Museum of Art.

OCMA exhibition highlights during Szakacs’ tenure included the first retrospective of abstract painter Mary Heilmann, which was featured on the covers of both Art in America and Artforum magazines in November 2007; the first retrospective of figurative painter Peter Saul, the only exhibition in the United States to be featured on both the New York Times and Los Angeles Times Best of 2008 Lists; the first survey of Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park paintings, and the first retrospective of legendary Los Angeles artist Richard Jackson, which Szakacs curated, and is currently on view at the Museum Villa Stuck in Munich, Germany. Groundbreaking thematic exhibitions included Girls Night Out (2004); Birth of the Cool: California Art, Design, and Culture at Midcentury (2008); and State of Mind: New California Art Circa 1970 (2012), one of the few Pacific Standard Time exhibitions to extensively tour the United States. Under Szakacs’ direction the museum’s California Biennial grew to become one of the most important regional surveys of new art in the U.S. and evolved this year into the California-Pacific Triennial, the first on-going exhibition in the Western Hemisphere devoted to contemporary art from around the Pacific Rim.

Research, conservation and public access to the collection were enhanced with a series of important collection exhibitions supported by substantial grants from major public foundations. Numerous works of art were added to the collection, and its focus was broadened from Southern California to include national and international artists, with a particular focus on artists from diverse ethnicities and backgrounds. Key additions to the collection include major works by Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, Yoshua Okon, Kerry Tribe, Kori Newkirk, Karl Haendel, Sean Duffy, Lynn Foulkes, Mary Heilmann, Joel Morrison, Daniel Joseph Martinez, Martin Kersels, Elad Lassry, Robin Rhode, Edgar Arceneaux, William Claxton, Jack Goldstein, Nayland Blake, Amy Sillman, Amanda Ross-Ho, Joe Goode, Ruben Ochoa, and Kenneth Noland. Important conservation projects included the upgrade of the museum’s climate control systems, the refurbishment of Tony Delap’s large-scale outdoor sculpture Floating Lady, and the total restoration of Chris Burden’s epic Tale of Two Cities.

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