JOHN E. BUCHANAN, Jr. – Director of the Legion of Honor and de Young Museum loses battle with cancer

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Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco announces with great sadness the death of John Edward Buchanan, Jr., Director of Museums, on December 30, 2011. Mr. Buchanan passed away at the age of 58 after a battle with cancer.

Said Diane B. Wilsey, President of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Board of Trustees, “The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco has lost a dynamic, creative leader whose vibrant energy and humor will be missed by everyone. I, personally, have lost a best friend whose vast knowledge and intellectual curiosity never ceased to amaze me.”

John E. Buchanan, Jr. joined the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) in February 2006. During his six-year tenure, he led the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park to record levels of attendance and membership, increased levels of corporate sponsorship and individual giving, developed a vibrant educational program, including the famed Friday Nights at the de Young Museum and presented an impressive and robust portfolio of critically acclaimed exhibitions.

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JOHN E. BUCHANAN, Jr.
Photo, Jennifer Hsuy-FAMSF

Through his extensive global network of private lenders, museum colleagues and foreign governments, Buchanan brought the treasures and masterpieces of the worlds of painting, sculpture, haute couture, decorative arts, antiquities and pop culture to San Francisco. Buchanan’s leadership provided the Museums with exceptional opportunities, including hosting the foremost exhibitions of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism from the collection of the Musee d’Orsay in 2011, and contributing to an internationally successful exhibition program, among which included the haute couture craftsmanship of Vivienne Westwood, Yves Saint Laurent and Cristobal Balenciaga.

Under Buchanan’s six-year stewardship the Museums welcomed over 11.9 million visitors, presented over 100 special exhibitions rooted in the depth and diversity of the museums’ permanent collections, oversaw the publication of 31 exhibition catalogues and collection-based publications, and increased the museums’ membership to 122,000 households. The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco have the third largest membership in the nation, are the fourth most visited art museums in North America and are the fourteenth most visited museums in the world.

Buchanan’s previous positions included serving as executive director of the Portland Art Museum in Portland, Oregon (1994–2005), director of Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis, Tennessee (1986–1994) and executive director of the Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences in Peoria, Illinois (1982–1986).

Mr. Buchanan is survived by his wife Lucy Matthews Buchanan of San Francisco, and his uncle Louis Buchanan and aunt Edith Buchanan McCoy, both of Nashville, Tennessee.

Funeral services in Nashville, Tennessee are private. A memorial service in San Francisco will be held at a later date. At the family’s request, donations can be made in memory of John Edward Buchanan, Jr. to:

The Director’s Discretionary Fund at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, attention: Sabina Crivello, de Young Museum, 50 Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118, or call (415) 750-3687

In support of the research of Dr. Andrew Ko (research fund B2098), UCSF Medical Center, attention: Sarah Krumholz, UCSF, 220 Montgomery Street, 5th Floor, San Francisco, CA. 94104, or call (415) 502-1899

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