Salort-Pons named DIA's new director

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer

Salvador Salort-Pons, currently head of the European Art Department at the Detroit Institute of Arts, has been named the museum’s new director.

Museum board chair Eugene A. Gargaro Jr. made the announcement after a Wednesday morning board meeting. Salort-Pons, who’s Spanish, has been at the museum seven years and is also DIA executive director for collection strategies and information.

Salvador Salort-Pons, who was announced as the the director of the DIA on Wednesday, answers questions from the media during a press conference.

He brings a rare combination of art expertise and business acumen to the job. Salort-Pons, who’s 45 and a native of Madrid, got his doctorate at the Royal Spanish College at Italy’s University of Bologna. He also has an MBA from the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

“Salvador would be fantastic for Detroit,” said Henry Luttikhuisen, a Calvin College professor and president of the Midwest Art History Society, where Salort-Pons is a board member. “He’s an excellent curator, has a fine track record, and is good at communicating with the public.”

“He also has a very good eye,” Luttikhuisen added, pointing to Salort-Pons’ 2013 discovery of a previously unidentified painting at Meadow Brook Hall by Murillo, an important 17th-century Spanish Baroque painter. The work is currently on loan to the DIA.

At the museum, Salort-Pons was instrumental in organizing the 2010 “Fakes, Forgeries and Mysteries” and “Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus” the following year. He also pulled together one of the museum’s most popular mini-shows, the 2012 “Five Spanish Masterpieces,” where key works by Velázquez, Goya, El Greco, Dalí and Picasso were hung and spotlit in dramatic isolation.

Prior to landing in Detroit in 2008, Salort-Pons was senior curator at the Meadows Museum at SMU, and before that an assistant professor of art history at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. He’s also been a Getty Fellow and exhibition curator at Rome’s Memmo Foundation.

Salort-Pons, who’s fluent in English, Spanish and Italian, is the author of two books, “Velázquez en Italia” published in Madrid in 2002, and “Velázquez,” which came out in 2008.

“I was quite impressed with Salvador as a young scholar,” said William Jordan, founding director of the Meadows Museum, “and he seems to have been a great partner for Graham (Beal), who appears to have relied on him a lot.”

Luttikhuisen calls Salort-Pons “level-headed,” and notes that he has that rare gift among the highly educated — he engages ordinary audiences easily, with no hint of condescension.

Ruth Rattner, a Metro Detroit art consultant and head of the museum’s European Painting Auxiliary, says he’s immensely popular with museum patrons.

“People love Salvador’s tours,” she said. “They’re always overbooked. He always has to do two.”

Salort-Pons lives in Bloomfield Hills with his wife Alexandra and their children Piper and Tucker. The family plans to move to Detroit in the near future.