Anne-Marie Russell, general director of the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in St. Petersburg, Florida, will leave her position on March 1, the establishment’s board of directors announced. Recently appointed (last March), her mission was to modernize the museum to match it “to industrial standards” and adopt “best practices” ; goals she has achieved ” with success “according to the MFA.
But if the institution highlights the success of the former director’s initiatives, her departure comes in a particular context which is not unrelated to her departure. Last June, the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts fired its curator of ancient Western art, Michael Bennett, after organizing a traveling exhibition of Greek antiquities of questionable provenance. The exhibition featured works from the Geometric period of ancient Greece (900 to 700 BC), from a collector, Sol Rabin, who acquired them from dealers involved in antiquities trafficking. , including the merchant Robert E. Hecht (1919-2012).
The Denver Art Museum, which was to host the exhibition and which is also facing a case concerning its collection of antiquities from Cambodia, had requested a postponement to verify the provenance of the works. The St. Petersburg museum then placed Michael Bennett on leave, then fired him without giving an explanation. According to the museum’s lawyer, because of his volunteer status, Michael Bennett could be fired without cause, adding however that “the MFA had sufficient reasons to do so”.
Other senior members of staff have also resigned this year, including Jane Aspinwall, the chief curator of photography, and Paul Churchill, the curator of exhibitions. Jorge Vidal, chief director of special projects, left his position to become director of Florida CraftArt.
These numerous departures raise questions about the future of the museum, notes the Tampa Bay Times. No plans for future exhibitions are currently announced on the museum’s website.