Evan Hopkins Turner, whose leadership of several institutions in the U.S. and Canada helped cement their stature as art-world destinations, has died at 93. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, which reported news of his death this past weekend, Turner died on December 17 of a congestive heart failure.
Over the course of his decades-long career, Turner directed the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio. Early on, he was regarded as a wunderkind, and his star never burned out during his years in the field.
After five years at the helm of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, where he began as director in 1959, Turner was named director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1964. At just 36 years old, he had built up an impressive résumé that included a bachelors degree in art history from Harvard University; stints as head docent at the Fogg Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and lecturer at the Frick Collection in New York; and a period as curator and assistant director of the Wadsworth Atheneum in Connecticut.
At the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Turner placed his emphasis on an area that had been historically underrepresented in the institution’s program: 20th century art. Under his direction, the museum formed the Alfred Stieglitz Center for Photography, and he brought on noted curators such as Anne d’Harnoncourt, Joseph Rishel, and Stella Kramrisch. He also stewarded the museum as it continued to support Marcel Duchamp, who unveiled Étant donnés (1946–66), his final piece, at the institution while Turner was director.
Turner left the Philadelphia Museum in 1983 and became the director of the Cleveland Museum of Art, where he continued to further his interest in modern art. When he took the helm of that institution, he told the New York Times, “One of the difficult problems of a great museum with a collecting policy directed toward outstanding objects—not objects by big-name artists—from all periods and epochs, is to grope its way through to the adventurous exploration characteristic of modern art.”
He remained at the Cleveland Museum of Art until 1993, when he retired.
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