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Richard Koshalek to lead Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum

February 26, 2009 |  1:46 pm

Koshalek Ousted last year as president of Pasadena's Art Center College of Design, Richard Koshalek will return to the museum world in the nation's capital as director of the Smithsonian Institution's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

G. Wayne Clough, the Smithsonian's new secretary, announced the appointment, effective April 13, in a statement, citing Koshalek's "vast experience in both the education and museum worlds." Before taking over Art Center's top spot in 1999 with a mandate to raise money and expand the campus, Koshalek, 67, was an institution-building director of L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art during the 1980s and 1990s. "His creativity brought modern and contemporary art to bear on issues of the day and will help  [the Hirshhorn] reach broad audiences in technologically and aesthetically exciting new ways," Clough said.

Koshalek said in a statement that he is eager to help the Hirshhorn "make a unique contribution not only to the history of modern and contemporary art, but to the larger appreciation of the role of the arts in society."

Last spring, Art Center's board of trustees refused Koshalek's request for a contract extension, as students and alumni of the design school complained that he had focused too much on expanding the campus with a then-proposed, now in limbo new building by Frank Gehry, and on building  Arts Center's reputation nationally and internationally, and not enough on preserving educational quality and raising money to offset students' tuition costs.

In September, Art Center's trustees released Koshalek from the final year of his contract.

The Hirshhorn, located on the National Mall, is devoted to modern and contemporary art, with 60,000 square feet of exhibition space, a collection of 11,500 pieces and a nearly four-acre sculpture garden. It has a staff of 60, and last year’s budget was $11 million.

-- Mike Boehm

Photo: Richard Koshalek. Credit: Wally Skalij / LAT

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