Since Lawrence J. Wheeler was named director in 1994, the North Carolina Museum of Art has become one of the leading art museums in the South. The NCMA's major exhibitions, featuring the work of Rodin, Rembrandt and Monet, have attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the nation and around the world.
Prior to joining the NCMA, Wheeler was director of development at the Cleveland Museum of Art from 1985 to 1994. From 1977 to 1985, he served as deputy secretary for the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, where he oversaw construction of the original NCMA building.
In 2006, under Wheeler's leadership, the museum unveiled its design for an ambitious expansion. His vision for a spacious, light-filled structure to house the museum's collection became a reality in 2010. Today the award-winning West Building, surrounded by sculpture gardens and reflecting pools, exhibits works from the institution's outstanding permanent collection of more than 5,000 objects from ancient Egypt to the present day. The expansion also transformed the museum's original building into a center for temporary exhibitions, collections management and education.
Wheeler secured a gift of 29 Rodin sculptures from the Cantor Foundation, making the NCMA the largest repository of Rodin's work in the South. He has helped build the modern and contemporary collections substantially, including a gift of masters of mid- to late-20th century American art from the private collection of Jim and Mary Patton.
Wheeler's awards include France's Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters, the Medal of Arts from the City of Raleigh, the Leadership Award from Triangle Business Journal, the Design Guild Award from NC State's College of Design, and the Thad Eure Memorial Award from the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau. The News & Observer named Wheeler the 2000 Tar Heel of the Year by. In 2010, he received the inaugural Mary D.B.T. Semans Award for Distinguished Service from Duke University's Nasher Museum of Art.
Wheeler grew up in Lakeland, Florida. He holds bachelor's degrees in history and French from Pfeiffer College. His master's and doctorate in European history are from the University of Georgia.