THE director of Modern Art Oxford has died, aged just 37.

Michael Stanley was found dead in a garden of a house in Adelaide Street, Jericho, Oxford, by a member of the public at 12.17pm on Friday.

Mr Stanley was declared dead at the scene.

Police said the death was being treated as unexplained but believe there are no suspicious circumstances.

In a statement, the gallery, in Pembroke Street, Oxford, said during almost four years at its helm Mr Stanley had delivered a “vibrant and critically acclaimed artistic programme”.

The statement added: “His approach was sometimes radical, often revelatory and always thought-provoking.

“As well as creating an exciting new gallery space, Michael initiated innovative joint ventures with other Oxford cultural institutions including the Ashmolean, the Old Power Station and the Radcliffe Observatory.”

David Isaac, chair of Modern Art Oxford, said: “He will be hugely missed by everyone in the artistic community, both nationally and internationally.

“We have lost a great talent – our thoughts are with his family at this very sad time.”

Mr Stanley led a series of changes to the building which included the transformation of the gallery’s yard into a vibrant art and social space and developed music and film evenings.

Bob Price, leader of Oxford City Council , said his death was a loss to Oxford and the entire artistic community.

He added: “It’s a real shock.

“He has been really dynamic and energetic director who brought whole range of concepts and ideas since he came.

“The whole feel of the place has become much more dynamic and geared towards young people.

“It’s a real magnet for new and up-and-coming artists.

“His death is a real loss to Oxford and the whole artistic community.”

Tributes were also paid to Mr Stanley on social networking site Twitter by former colleagues.

Matthew Retallick said: “A sad day.

“It has been a pleasure to work under the directorship of Michael Stanley, myself and the other MAO staff will miss him greatly.”

Honor Harger said: “Completely devastated to learn of the passing of our close colleague, the brilliant Michael Stanley.”

Among the exhibitions Mr Stanley was involved in were by the artists Pawel Althamer, David Austen and Karla Black.

In an interview with the Oxford Times in 2010, he talked of his passion for art even as a teenager preferring to spend Saturday afternoons at the Walker Art Gallery or Tate Liverpool rather then the football terraces.

Mr Stanley grew up in Widnes but moved to Oxford to study at Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art to study.

He returned to the city in January 2009 to take on the post of director of Modern Art Oxford.