By Jim Hopkins
The Speed Museum is paying CEO Ghislain d’Humières more than $300,000 a year, according to its latest IRS tax return, the first public disclosure of the annual compensation paid to the man hired to lead one of Louisville’s preeminent cultural institutions, after a top-to-bottom renovation completed this year.
D’Humières joined the museum in September 2013 to help oversee the $60 million renovation already underway; it was finished with its reopening in March after being closed more than three years. He came from the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma, where he also was the chief executive.
The tax return says he was paid $290,553 in salary and $18,105 in medical and retirement benefits to run the 91-year-old institution and next year’s $8.3 million budget.
D’Humières replaced Charles Venable, who in October 2012 left for the top job at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. He led the Speed for five years, and was paid $241,834 in salary and $19,250 in benefits during his last year there.
IRS tax returns filed by non-profits such as the Speed provide the fullest annual public accounting of their finances, including spending on payroll, marketing and other overhead as well as revenue from donations and investment income. The Speed’s is especially noteworthy because it’s one of the city’s most high-profile arts organizations, now under d’Humières.
Comparable pay elusive
A native of France, he holds a DEA in History and License of Art History from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne, and a Master of History from the University of Paris X Nanterre.
It’s difficult to find comparable compensation for Louisville executives in his position, partly because of his unusual academic credentials, but also because IRS tax returns often lag among the city’s handful of non-profits devoted to the arts.
Actors Theatre‘s highest-paid employee, then-managing director, Jennifer Bielstein, got $189,116 in salary and $17,759 in other compensation during the year ended May 2014, according to its latest tax return on charity tracker GuideStar. It had a $10 million annual budget and 338 employees, although the vast majority were part-time performance artists, during the company’s performance season. Bielstein left in March after 10 years to be managing director of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, and was replaced by Kevin Moore.
Other large non-profits outside the arts community include Metro United Way, which paid CEO Joe Tolan $229,200 in salary plus $50,714 in other benefits in fiscal 2014. It just announced Tolan’s planned retirement, and his replacement: Theresa Reno-Weber, a senior aide to Mayor Greg Fischer.
Compensation at the nation’s marquee museums is, no surprise, sky high. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, CEO Thomas Campbell was paid $951,000 in salary and $344,604 in other compensation and benefits, according to its most recent IRS return. And he wasn’t even the highest-paid employee; the chief investment officer, Suzanne Brenner, got $1.4 million total. But it’s an enormous operation: a $500 million annual budget with 2,550 employees. (The Brown family of Louisville, generous though they are to the Speed, contributes a lot of money to the Metropolitan, too.)
The Speed’s latest return covers its 2014 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, 2015. It reported total revenue of $6.7 million, including $5.4 million in contributions — up from $6.3 million in revenue, including $4.9 million in contributions, in the prior year. Spending totaled $5.5 million vs. $4.9 million. But those were years when the museum wasn’t open, during the expansion.
As with virtually all cultural institutions, the Speed largely depends on donations and income from an endowment of stocks and other investments.
Gifts of art worth $465K
The Speed’s endowment stood at $64.7 million in the year ended Sept. 30 vs. $68 million a year before. At that level, it ranks among the largest Louisville non-profits in terms of assets. The biggest is the University of Louisville Foundation, at more than $800 million.
The return revealed other details. It received gifts of art worth $465,000 vs. $528,000 the year before, and bought new works for $234,00 vs. just $12,000 in the prior period. In total, the museum’s collection includes some 13,000 pieces spanning 6,000 years, including 17th-century Dutch and Flemish paintings; 18th-century French art, plus significant contemporary paintings and sculpture.
The Speed is still adjusting to its newly expanded quarters — and is dealing with some of the growing pains experienced by museums that budget according to projections of patron traffic after a big expansion. Two weeks ago, the museum said it had laid off seven employees — 8% of its workforce — and switched two positions to part-time from full-time. That came after revising its budget for next year. With the staff changes, the Speed now has 78 full-time and 39 part-time employees.
Expanded multiple times
Hattie Bishop Speed founded the museum in 1925 as a memorial to her husband, James Breckinridge Speed, a prominent Louisville businessman and philanthropist. It opened in 1927 on what is now the campus of the University of Louisville in a building designed by Louisville architect Arthur Loomis.
Since then, it’s been enlarged multiple times as its collection was bolstered with important new pieces, notably including the 1977 purchase of Rembrandt’s “Portrait of a Woman,” for $1.5 million (about $6 million in today’s dollars). The museum closed in 1996-97 for a renovation, then again in 2012 for the latest expansion, which ultimately cost $60 million, much of that paid for by the Brown family of the whiskey giant Brown-Forman in Louisville. (More about the museum’s history.)
In the photo, top: The museum’s main entrance after its multiyear renovation.