Ending a tumultuous 15 months without a director, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco announced Wednesday the appointment of Colin B. Bailey to the position. The previous director, John Buchanan, died 15 months ago.

Bailey has been at the Frick Collection in New York since 2000, beginning as curator, later becoming associate director and then deputy director. He has published extensively and organized more than two dozen exhibitions. He takes up his new post June 1.

He claims not to be deterred by the controversies brewing over the past year: "No one likes to hear of problems in an institution," Bailey told the New York Times, "but not for a minute did any of this reporting diminish my incredible excitement and the honor of having this position."

Bailey refers to abrupt senior staff turnover and tense labor negotiations that have taken place over the past year at FAMSF, as well as the heated criticism of longtime board president and museums benefactor, Diane Wilsey, impugned by museum staff for becoming too involved in daily operations at the museums.

The Fine Arts Museums consist of the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor Museum in Lincoln Park. Together the museums form the largest public arts institution in San Francisco, drawing almost 1.6 million visitors annually, making them the fourth most-visited museums in the country.

London-born Bailey, 57, has also worked at the National Gallery of Canada, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Kimbell Art Museum in Ft. Worth. He was named one of the first fellows by the Center for Curatorial Leadership and was awarded the Mitchell Prize for best art history book.