Gary Russell Libby (born June 7, 1944) is an American art historian, author, educator and former museum director known for his books and scholarly exhibitions in the visual arts and his work on the history and development of the Florida School of Art.
Libby was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the second of three sons to Sylvia Phillips Libby of Boston and Charles Willard Libby of Machias, Maine. After graduation from Fort Myers Senior High School, Fort Myers, Florida, he attended the University of Florida, where he received an Associate of Arts, Bachelor and Masters of Arts degrees in English Literature. Libby was awarded a post-graduate National Defense Education Act Fellowship to attend Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, where he was accepted into the doctoral program with an interest in turn of the century art and literature journals published in England, such as the Savoy and the Yellow Book. At Tulane, Libby worked with Dr. Jessie Poesch, Professor of Art History at Sophie Newcomb College, Tulane University, and author of the 1983 landmark publication The Arts of the Old South. After graduation from Tulane with another masters in English Literature and the completion of all coursework and examinations for the Ph.D. degree, Libby was hired as an assistant professor by Stetson University in 1972.
At Stetson University, DeLand, Florida, Libby developed the curriculum for a number of upper-division interdisciplinary courses for a new major in the arts and humanities. He also worked with Fred Messersmith AWS, chairman of the Department of Art, in developing a series of exhibitions that explored the careers of artists from the United States and abroad who painted in Florida from post-Civil War to World War I. While at Stetson, Libby published a number of articles in academic journals, including the Italian Quarterly and Paideuma.
He also began his study of Cuban historic artists in the Fulgencio Batista Collection of Cuban art housed at the Cuban Foundation Museum, Museum of Arts and Sciences, Daytona Beach, Florida. Libby’s “Artistic Taste in Pre-Castro Cuba” was one of the lead papers presented at the Southeastern Museum Conference, Charleston, South Carolina, 1975. That paper became the foundation of two books Libby authored. (Two Centuries of Cuban Art: 1759-1959, a softcover bi-lingual catalog, published by the Ringling Museum of Art, with essays interpreting works of art from the Batista Collection exhibition, 1980. Libby curated the exhibition at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida, with additional works from the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and the Museum of Modern Art of Latin America, Washington, DC. Cuba-A History in Art, University Press of Florida, 1997, revised edition 2015.)
At Stetson University, Libby served as Secretary of the Faculty Senate and acting University Art Archivist. In 1975, he was elected as a Trustee at the Museum of Arts and Sciences, Daytona Beach, Florida, and became a Charter Member of the International Society of Fine Art Appraisers, Ltd.
In 1977, Libby was hired as the Executive Director of the Museum of Arts and Sciences which became accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and a Smithsonian Affiliate under Libby’s leadership. The museum grew from one location of 7,000 sq. ft. to 120,000 sq. ft. with three different locations. Libby was also selected for and completed one of the first classes of the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum Leadership and Management Certification Program directed by Jane Glaser. At the museum, Libby organized and led the first international museum travel program in Florida. This annual program introduced cultural treasures in Mexico, Central America, South America, Europe, Scandinavia, North and Equatorial Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia to thousands of central Floridians who attended these interpreted educational and cultural expeditions. At his 2002 retirement, the trustees of the Museum of Arts and Sciences named Libby as the first Director Emeritus and named the Lobby of the Museum the “Gary R. Libby Entry Court.” A trustee-led community-wide effort also raised nearly one million dollars to endow the Gary R. Libby Curator of Art position at the Museum of Arts and Sciences.
Libby continues to teach and lecture at Stetson University as a Visiting Professor / Guest Curator and also guest lectures for the Honors College at the University of Florida as adjunct lecturer.