The Santa Barbara Museum of Art has announced the appointment of a new director, Larry J. Feinberg, formerly of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he has held the position of Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Curator in the Department of Medieval through Modern European Painting, and Modern European Sculpture since 1997. Feinberg is especially well known for his publications and exhibitions dealing with Italian Renaissance art and for a major retrospective of the work of French Symbolist Gustave Moreau, entitled Gustave Moreau: Between Epic and Dream. Feinberg will officially begin work at the museum on March 1, 2008.
Feinberg’s appointment represents a significant moment in the history and development of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Coming after several years of financial retrenchment under outgoing director Phillip Johnston, Feinberg’s mandate from the trustees is to bring the museum further into the national limelight. Feinberg acknowledged this in a statement, saying that “I can see that the Trustees and the staff are determined to elevate the organization’s status from that of a regional art museum to that of West Coast, and even national prominence:I am convinced that this goal can be achieved.”
In addition to his scholarly and curatorial activities, Feinberg is a renowned leader in the areas of educational outreach and international relief efforts. In Chicago, Feinberg chaired the board of Art Resources in Teaching, an organization that presented more than 300 programs in visual arts literacy to more than 40,000 public elementary school students. In 2004 and 2005, Feinberg took a sabbatical from the Art Institute to serve as an operational and financial manager for the United Nations in Africa.
In terms of its impact on the future direction of the SBMA, the appointment signals a renewed commitment to the permanent collections and to the scholarly presentation of diverse materials. Feinberg’s best known shows, the Moreau retrospective, and The Medici Michelangelo, and the Art of Late Renaissance Florence, both received high praise from the arts press for their seamless integration of the historical and social context into the exhibitions.
Feinberg holds Ph.D. and M.A. degrees from Harvard, an M.B.A. from the Kellogg School, and a B.A. with distinction and Phi Beta Kappa from Northwestern University. His writing combines a high level of precision and sophistication about his subjects with a witty, culturally aware contemporary sensibility, and it will be exciting to see how he approaches the task of running the SBMA.