Updated at 10:50 a.m. July 2, 2014
John Wilson has resigned after six years as executive director of the Timken Museum of Art, the Balboa Park institution announced Tuesday. He is being replaced by an 80-year-old art restorer.
The museum said famed David Bull, “one of the world’s best known international authorities on Old Master paintings,” succeeds Wilson, effective immediately, becoming the new visiting director of the Timken.
“We don’t have information as of yet regarding a permanent director,” said Paige Nordeen, a museum spokeswoman. “David will be guiding the institution through San Diego’s 2015 centennial celebrations in Balboa Park and coincides with the museum’s 50th anniversary celebration, and he will be leading several planning sessions over the next month.”
Wilson, 58, became executive director of the Timken in 2008, the first professional art historian with extensive museum experience to hold the position.
“John is leaving the museum to pursue other opportunities,” Nordeen told Times of San Diego. “He is pursuing national and international opportunities which abound, given his experience and expertise.”
Tim Zinn, Timken board president, praised Wilson as “a superb curator, overseeing efforts to arrange loans of artworks for the upcoming celebrations, mounting a stellar Innes exhibition, and reorganizing the Timken’s famous Russian Icon collection.”
“He enjoyed the challenge of placing contemporary work on view at the Timken in the context of its permanent Old Master works, and forged collaborations with other local museums. In keeping with that theme, the Timken mounted Behold America in collaboration with San Diego Museum of Art and San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art.”
The Timken, which calls itself one of the great small museums in the world, houses the Putnam Foundation Collection representing nearly 700 years of art from early Italian Renaissance devotional paintings to late 19th century paintings.
In July 2013, U-T San Diego reported, the Timken had the highest monthly attendance in its nearly 50-year history.
“The institution reports that more than 22,800 people visited the museum during the month, more than half of them during the last two weeks in July,” the U-T said.
According to Zinn, “as executive director, John has done an excellent job of integrating the museum into the cultural fabric of San Diego.
“With David Bull involved, we are further spreading our wings in the international art community,” said Zinn.
“David Bull’s blend of scholarship, technical brilliance and diplomatic aplomb are legendary. For more than 50 years he has examined, cleaned and restored paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, Bellini, Titian, Raphael, Rembrandt, van Gogh, Cézanne, Manet, Monet, Picasso and countless other masters.”
In addition to currently serving as the chairman of painting conservation at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., Bull is a principal and founder of Fine Art Conservation and Restoration Inc., based in New York City, consulting with private collectors, museums, art dealers and auction houses.
He previously worked at the National Gallery in London, as well as director at the Norton Simon Museum and head conservator at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Other clients include Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Huntington Library and Art Gallery, Armand Hammer Foundation, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, New Orleans Museum of Art, National Park Service, Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Walter Annenberg and Paul Mellon.
“David is no stranger to members of the Timken board and the San Diego art community,” Zinn said. “He has been a member of our advisory board and in 2002 led a trip of Timken board members and friends from San Diego to Venice to observe his work for the Save Venice Foundation. We are looking forward to having David collaborate with us and begin working on new ideas for our 50th anniversary and beyond.”
In August 2008, U-T San Diego reported that Wilson was named director after a formal search that lasted just over a year. He succeeded John Petersen, who died in December 2006.
“Wilson, 52, who has been senior curator of collections at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Neb., since 2005, was chosen from among seven candidates, said Gary Meads, head of the Timken’s search committee and vice president of its board of trustees.” the U-T said.
“John (Wilson) understands the depth and gravity of the collection,” Meads said. “He brings fresh ideas about reaching new audiences and finding contemporary counterpoints to the collections. He feels strongly about working collaboratively with other museums and other cultural organizations.”