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Film academy museum loses director Kerry Brougher in latest hiccup

In the latest twist in the long-running drama surrounding the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, museum director Kerry Brougher is exiting the project just as it finally nears completion.

The film academy announced on Monday that Brougher, 66, is leaving to return to his roots in the art world. Prior to being hired by the academy, Brougher served for 14 years as the chief curator of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., and earlier in his career was a curator at Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art.

“We thank Kerry for his dedicated service on behalf of the museum,” the academy museum board said in the announcement. “His work over the last five years on the museum’s construction and in-depth collections well positions us to move into the next phase of this ambitious project. Kerry’s strong curatorial team will continue to work with us toward the museum’s opening, and a search for a new museum director will begin shortly. Our primary goal remains to create the best possible motion picture museum for visitors.”

After years of cost overruns and delays, construction on the $388-million, Renzo Piano-designed museum at Fairfax Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard, on the site of the 1939 May Co. building, is finally almost finished. The museum — the largest devoted to film in the country — will feature 50,000 square feet of exhibition space and two state-of-the-art movie theaters, the larger of which is a 1,000-seat globe-shaped theater some have dubbed the Death Star. Along with a permanent exhibition devoted to the history of filmmaking, the museum has announced two inaugural special exhibitions: “Regeneration: Black Cinema 1900-1970" and a retrospective showcasing the work of animation icon Hayao Miyazaki.

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Speaking to The Times last year, Brougher promised visitors an experience that would transport them “into a world that exists somewhere between reality and illusion.”

No specific information was offered on where Brougher may be heading next, nor did the academy explain the reason for his departure, which comes as a surprise, particularly given that construction of the museum is just months, if not weeks, away from completion.

“It has been a privilege for me to work with this board, our donors, the great Renzo Piano, and all of my colleagues who have participated in creating this unique Museum,” Brougher said in a statement Monday. “We are just weeks away from completing construction of the buildings, ending the first phase of this project, and our collection has grown substantially. The Miyazaki and ‘Regeneration’ exhibitions will be the first of their kind. I’m very proud of the work done by our amazing team. Now is the right time for me to pass the baton.”

In recognition of his work bringing the museum near to the finish line, Brougher will be given the title of founding director.

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