Since Robert P. Bergman became its director in 1981, the Walters Art Gallery has renovated the 1904 original building, added the Hackerman House wing of Asian art, introduced admission fees, increased attendance by half, increased membership dramatically, nearly tripled endowment and more than tripled its annual budget. Upon his departure, to head the larger and much wealthier Cleveland Museum of Art next summer, Mr. Bergman will be missed.
The Walters Art Gallery, belonging to the city and people of Baltimore, is one of the world's great art museums, thanks to the collecting skills and public generosity of William T. and Henry Walters. Were it in Paris or New York or Rome, millions would visit the Walters each year. It is one of Baltimore's gems, a natural tourist magnet though a bit far from the Inner Harbor, a must for anyone's education in the world's cultures, a haven of escape for those who work downtown, the site of many a day well spent for lovers of art.
But the Walters is also a city institution, a beneficiary of city subsidies and county, state and federal grants and corporate donations. And a victim of recession and budget cutbacks. The successor to Mr. Bergman will have challenges waiting.