Former Getty Director Michael Brand Heads to Aga Khan Museum

Michael Brand

TORONTO. Michael Brand, the former J. Paul Getty Museum director who stepped down at the Los Angeles institution earlier this year, has been appointed to a consultancy post at the Aga Khan Development Network, a global Islamic charitable foundation that is currently building an Aga Khan Museum in Toronto. According to sources with knowledge of the hire, the position places Brand — an expert in Asian art — in line to assume the directorship of the Islamic art and culture museum when it opens in a Fumihiko Maki-designed building in 2013.

Reached by ARTINFO, Brand confirmed the news of his appointment as a consultant, saying that he will be advising the organization “on strategies for the development of their international museum programs including, most specifically, the new Aga Khan Museum in Toronto.” A representative for the museum could not immediately be reached for comment.

The museum’s collection of more than 1,000 items, donated by the Aga Khan and his family, includes books and manuscripts, metalwork, carpets, ceramics, paintings, ivories, hardstone objects, and woodcarving spanning the last millennium and ranging in provenance from China to Portugal. Officials at the museum say that they hope for it to serve as a cross-cultural educator about Muslim culture. (ARTINFO partner Canvas Guide reported on plans for the museum earlier this year.)

Selections have been exhibited widely in Europe since 2007, including a survey at the Louvre in 2007-08. From October 2010 to January 2011, books and calligraphy from the collection will be shown at the Sakip Sabanci Museum in Istanbul, Turkey.

Rendering of the Aga Khan Museum, part of a $300 million complex in a Toronto Park that also includes an Ismaili Center designed by Indian architect Charles Correa. (Image: Maki Associates.)

Born in 1936, the Aga Khan, Prince Karim Al Husseini, is the spiritual leader of the Ismailis sect of Shi’ite Islam, which numbers some 15 million adherents. His immense wealth, estimated by Forbes last year at $800 million, derives from investments.

Since the late 1970s he has established through his secular trust a range of cultural programs, including the Aga Khan Award for Architecture (established in 1977), programs in Islamic architecture at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), a vast network that fosters innovative urban planning in Islamic communities, particularly in underdeveloped parts of the world.

Brand was director of the Getty Museum from 2005 until this January, when he abruptly resigned after falling out with James Wood, the president and CEO of the museum’s parent, the Getty Trust. Wood has since passed away. Brand previously led the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond from 2000 to 2005, after serving for four years as assistant director of the Queensland Art Gallery in his native Australia.

This story was first reported by ARTINFO’s IN VIEW blog.

[An unconfirmed tip led IN VIEW to announce earlier today that Brand was to head the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. That tip proved to be inaccurate and the post has been taken down.]


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Jason Edward Kaufman is an art historian and critic with expertise in museums and the international art world.

A complete list of past articles is available here.


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