John R. Lane, director of the Carnegie Institute's Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, has been named director of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Times has learned. The 42-year-old modern art historian and museum administrator succeeds Henry Hopkins who resigned this month to head the Frederick R. Weisman Collection in Los Angeles.
Lane's appointment, effective in February, is scheduled for public announcement at a press conference today in San Francisco.
"Ten years ago I never thought I would be living in Pittsburgh and I never thought I would be living in California, but in both cases I am delighted," Lane said in a telephone interview. "California's phenomenal growth of serious cultural activity in the visual arts has made it a place that makes a difference."
Lane cited "a real sense of commitment to solve the space problem" on the part of museum backers as the key factor in his decision to move to San Francisco. "I think the chief impediment to the museum's further growth and contribution to the field has been space," he said.
Earlier plans to expand the museum at its present site, on upper floors of the Veterans' Memorial Building in San Francisco's Civic Center, have been thwarted, but Lane said that "all options are open" now for expansion or relocation.
Educated at Williams College, the University of Chicago and Harvard University, Lane served as assistant director of the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge, Mass., in 1974, and held several administrative and curatorial posts at the Brooklyn Museum from 1975 to 1980.
In Pittsburgh since 1980, Lane has directed one segment of a four-part public culture palace envisioned by founder Andrew Carnegie. Along with its art museum, the Carnegie Institute encompasses Pittsburgh's central library, a concert hall and a natural history museum.
Though the Carnegie Museum of Art has followed its founder's modern vision and carried out his plan to buy the best works from an annual contemporary survey show, the institution also has become Pittsburgh's general art museum, containing collections of older material, Lane said.
The mission of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is much more sharply defined: setting contemporary art in the context of modern art history.