James Cuno left the Harvard University Art Museums in December 2002 after 11 years at its helm. His decision to leave came after University planners scrapped plans to build a new modern art museum along the Charles River.
Only one year later, he has announced plans to leave the Courtauld for the directorship at the Art Institute, which has the second-largest membership of any museum in the country.
Cuno, who will begin his new job in September, said that it was the opportunity in Chicago that persuaded him to leave the Courtauld.
“I had planned on staying indefinitely, but these things only come every so often,” he said.
Cuno said he is looking forward to directing the Art Institute’s renowned collections, educational programs and exhibitions, as well as maintaining a strong relationship with the city of Chicago.
“There’s something very special about the city’s regard for the museum, the high esteem in which they hold it. There’s a personal and supportive relationship,” Cuno said.
While at Harvard, Cuno met strong resistance from Cambridge residents over the proposed Riverside modern art museum.
During Cuno’s tenure, Harvard University Art Museums successfully concluded its largest capital campaign ever, raising $55 million. The Museums doubled in staff size and in budget; its endowment more than quadrupled to $360 million.
In his new post, Cuno will be reunited with Italian architect Renzo Piano, who designed plans for the now defunct modern art museum and is currently working on a new 200,000 square foot wing to be added to the Art Institute.
John H. Bryan, chair of the Art Institute’s Board of Trustees, said in a press release that Cuno’s experience at Harvard made him “the perfect choice to lead [the Art Institute] into the 21st century.”
Cuno succeeds James N. Wood, who held the directorship for 24 years. Cuno and Wood recently collaborated on the book Whose Muse?, a study of the current state and future of American art museums.