Telfair Museums’ Board of Trustees has announced the appointment of Robin Nicholson as the institution’s next executive director/CEO, according to a news release.

Nicholson, who currently serves as executive director of The Frick Pittsburgh, will assume his position in Savannah on March 1, 2019. Nicholson is an art museum director with more than 30 years of international experience in the museum and curatorial fields.

“Robin will be able to continue the amazing growth that Telfair Museums has realized over the past six years with record attendance, revenue income growth, and operating surpluses,” said Molly Taylor, Telfair Museums’ deputy director. “This is an incredible opportunity to take the helm of a successful organization and move it to the next level.”

Nicholson’s appointment is the result of a national search, conducted by a board of trustees search committee created immediately following the May 2018 departure of Telfair’s former director, Lisa Grove. The committee worked in collaboration with the Phillips Oppenheim search firm.

 

“Robin distinguished himself throughout the interview process with his deep knowledge, passion, and clear vision of Telfair’s future,” said Ted Kleisner, chairman of the museum's board of trustees. “In many ways the Frick — with its historic property, art museum and expansive collection — and Telfair Museums bear close similarities in terms of scale, variety of buildings, collections, and audience; his experience and skills are perfectly aligned with the needs of Telfair Museums.”

Nicholson’s connection to Telfair dates back to 2003, when he oversaw the installation of an exhibition he had curated from The Drambuie Collection at the Telfair Academy.

“I am thrilled to be coming to Savannah, a city that I love, and to Telfair Museums, three unique museums with world-class architecture, great collections, and extraordinary potential and opportunity,” Nicholson said.

“Because of the time he spent in Savannah 15 years ago, Robin knew that he wanted to return permanently one day,” Taylor said. “To have that passion for Savannah before starting his tenure bodes well for his ability to acclimate and succeed.”

At The Frick Pittsburgh, Nicholson directs 120 full‐ and part‐time staff with an operating budget of $7 million. He has overseen dramatic changes in the institution, including expanded audiences and fundraising streams, increased diversity, collections growth, new scholarship, and the enhancement of the museum’s brand and reputation.

During his tenure, he completed a $15 million capital campaign to support three new buildings, collections storage, and endowment. Nicholson raised $6 million in his first year as director at the Frick. He initiated and directed a two-year strategic planning and visioning exercise, resulting in the first comprehensive strategic plan for the museum that develops and sustains every aspect of the Frick’s operations and outreach. In 2018, he secured and oversaw the most successful exhibition in the museum’s history, “Van Gogh, Monet, Degas,” with record visitation and $1 million in corporate, foundation, and individual sponsorship.

Nicholson previously served as head of exhibitions and deputy director for art and education at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts from 2006-14. In this post, he was responsible for the museum’s curatorial, exhibitions, education, statewide partnerships, publications, and library departments.

 

At the VMFA, he oversaw major exhibition projects including a multi-year collaboration with the Palace Museum, Beijing, for the exhibition “Forbidden City: Imperial Treasures from the Palace Museum, Beijing” and the 2011 exhibition “Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris,” the most expensive and ambitious exhibition in VMFA’s history, and the best attended, with over 230,000 visitors.

A native of Edinburgh, Scotland, Nicholson was educated at Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada, and received his bachelor of arts and master of arts in history and art from the University of Cambridge, England. He is a renowned scholar of the art of the 18th-century Stuart royal courts in Paris and Rome and has also published and lectured on other aspects of 18th-and 19th-century European art. His book on the portraiture of Prince Charles Edward Stuart was published by Bucknell University Press in 2002.