Graham Beal's plans after DIA retirement up in air

The Detroit News

Detroit — Graham Beal, director of the Detroit Institute of Arts, will retire June 30, the museum announced Thursday.

During his 16-year tenure, Beal, 67, is credited with the museum's extensive $158 million renovation and reinstallation that was completed in 2007, the passage of a 10-year tri-county regional property tax in 2012 and the more recent defense of the DIA's collection as the city was brought into historic bankruptcy proceedings.

"It has certainly been quite a ride with some amazing highs far outweighing the other kind, and I want to thank all those whose talents and passion for the DIA helped bring success in so many different areas: among them artistic, scholarly, pedagogical, political and legal," Beal said in a statement.

"I have been particularly fortunate to work with such an outstanding Chairman of the Board, Gene Gargaro. While it is difficult to close this most significant chapter in my professional life, I am delighted that it will end with an exhibition of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo's time in Detroit. It has been 10 years since I conceived of the idea for this exhibition, and I draw no small pleasure that it will mark my exit as director."

Beal was at the helm of the museum while the DIA was under attack during Detroit's bankruptcy proceedings as Christie's appraised the worth of some 3,500 objects at the DIA. But the museum was able to protect its collection after a "grand bargain" was struck with foundations and the DIA committing $816 million over 20 years to benefit Detroit pensioners.

"Graham has been an invaluable leader who has strengthened the museum in so many ways," said Eugene A. Gargaro Jr., DIA board chair, in a statement. "Graham has also led the museum through extremely challenging economic times, developed international stature and respect for the DIA, strengthened the collection and initiated a culture change that resulted in the museum becoming more accessible to all. We will truly miss Graham's leadership."

Asked about what he'll do after June 30, Beal said he has no concrete plans yet.

"Of course, we all say this kind of thing," he added, "and always talk about writing. But there are a couple things I'm thinking of doing. I expect I will be doing some lecturing or writing, but don't know what form it will take. Right now, I'm focusing on the retirement aspect of retirement."

He was equally vague about whether he will leave Detroit, though gave at least a hint as to his future direction.

"My wife grew up in Minnesota, but has since lived in California and become allergic to snow," Beal said, noting that she held down a job in Washington, D.C., until last summer when she retired and moved to Detroit full time. "But we've also made many good friends during our time here."

Beal's retirement announcement also comes months after The News reported Beal and two other DIA executives received controversial bonuses and compensation using the $23 million millage approved by voters in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties. Since then, directors of the DIA have repaid the museum $90,000 as reimbursement for the bonuses awarded to three top executives in 2013.

The repaid bonuses — $50,000 paid to Beal, $30,000 paid to chief operating officer Annmarie Erickson and $10,000 to chief financial officer Robert Bowen — were awarded as the regional tax began flowing to the museum. The millage accounts for 70 percent of the museum's budget. Beal and Erickson were also each paid $50,000 in bonuses in 2012. DIA officials said no millage money was used in that year for compensation.

The DIA under Beal

Major acquisitions

Double-Cup, Hans Petzolt, 1596

Ewer, Medici Manufactory, between 1575 and 1578

Chief's Throne, Olówè of Isè, 20th century

Departure of the Volunteers of 1792 (The Marseillaise), Francois Rude, ca. 1835

Study for Birds, Albert Joseph Moore, 1878

Officer of the Hussars, Kehinde Wiley, 2007

Seated Nude Woman Brushing Her Hair, Edgar Degas, 1885/1908

Russet Landscape, Edgar Degas, ca. 1890

Charger, Ottoman, between 1480 and 1500

Das Geviert, Anselm Kiefer, 1997

The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1634

Major exhibitions

Van Gogh: Face to Face, 2000

Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur, 2001

Over the Line: The Life and Art of Jacob Lawrence, 2002

Degas and the Dance, 2002

Magnificenza! The Medici, Michelangelo and the Art of Late Renaissance Florence, 2003

American Attitude: Whistler and His Followers, 2003

Camille Claudel and Rodin: Fateful Encounter, 2006

Through African Eyes: The European in African Art, 1500 to Present, 2010

Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus, 2011

Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit, opens March 15