Philadelphia Museum of Art appoints new director

Two years after having publicly confronted allegations of sexual harassment the Philadelphia Museum of Art has chosen its new director: ...


Two years after having publicly confronted allegations of sexual harassmentthe Philadelphia Museum of Art has chosen its new director: Sasha Suda, the current director and CEO of the National Gallery of Canada, in Ottawa, Ontario.

Praising her educational and professional background, Leslie Anne Miller, the museum’s president, said in an interview on Tuesday that Suda was “the right fit for the institution at this time in its history.”

“We hope her gender will be seen through our lens, which is emblematic of the institution’s ongoing commitment to advancing DEI in all that we do,” Miller continued, referring to the museum’s attention. to diversity, equity and inclusion. “Sasha understands the critical importance of building on our efforts to date to reach out to the community, to engage through the exhibits.”

Suda, 41, who will start in September as its 14th director and chief executive, will take charge of a 145-year-old institution that is still healing from controversy. In 2020, a New York Times report revealed that a young male manager had been accused of abusing several female staff. Government officials criticized the museum; employees unionized, citing gender and equity issues; and the museum’s former director, Timothy Rub, apologized to his staff. finally rub announcement his resignation last summer, after 13 years of service.

At the National Gallery, where she was appointed in February 2019, Suda focused on justice and equity with a commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

“I’m passionate about human-centered leadership and I’m really interested in developing that strength, so people can see the value of the work they do and the value of their own lived experience – where managers and leaders reserve room for discomfort and much-needed conversations. Suda said in a phone interview.

“That’s really what this moment is for me as a leader,” she continued, “going into these conversations with the will to make space and be there for them and have Eyes wide open.”

She added that the Philadelphia Museum – known for its collection of around 240,000 works of art, including those by Brancusi, Duchamp, Rodin and Jasper Johns (as well as its iconic steps, featured in the movie “Rocky”) – had long been one of his favourites. “I used to find myself lost in the galleries,” Suda said. “It’s just one of the few places where you can just switch off and enjoy the art in a museum in the best way.”

As cultural institutions attempt to diversify their workforces, boards, collections and programming, some will no doubt question the museum’s decision not to appoint a person of color. In February, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art replaced its longtime leader, Neal Benezra, with Christopher Bedford, the director of the Baltimore Museum of Art, who is white.

But Miller said Suda was the most qualified person, adding that the museum had launched “the widest possible network to attract the most diverse pool of candidates”.

Miller also cited Suda’s communication skills as being of paramount importance to the institution. The Philadelphia Museum of Art has been widely criticized by current and former staff members for not openly addressing issues involving a former director of education, Joshua Helmer, who resurfaced as director of the Erie Art Museum before being forced out of his job following the New York Times report.

Helmer declined to discuss accounts of his treatment of women or his dealings with them, although he said he always followed museum policy.

Born in Toronto to Czech parents, Suda received her BA from Princeton University, her MA in Art History from Williams College, and her Ph.D. at New York University. She began her career in the Medieval Department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she held various positions between 2003 and 2011.

She then returned to Canada as Assistant Curator at the Art Gallery of Ontario, where she eventually became Curator of European Art and later Chair of Prints and Drawings.

Suda will be the third female director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Anne d’Harnoncourt was a director and general manager from 1982 until his death in 2008; John Sutherland Boggsformer director of the National Gallery of Canada, was director of the Philadelphia Museum from 1978 to 1982.

Like cultural institutions around the world, the Philadelphia Museum is struggling to recover from the pandemic, which has necessitated staff and budget cuts. The museum currently has an operating budget of $62 million and is about to complete a capital campaign that brings its endowment to $560 million.

Last year, the museum completed the first part of a Frank Gehry-designed renovation and expansion.

But his main priority seems to be repairing his public stature as well as his internal health; after a 2020 “cultural assessment”, the museum has committed additional resources to key areas in need of repair. “The institution has not run away from its problems; we faced them head-on,” Miller said. “We are working on efforts to improve communication and transparency.

“Have we solved the problems? Absolutely not,” she added. “Are we committed to working on it? Absolutely.

“It’s a new chapter in a new world,” she continued. “We have to start thinking outside the box. We cannot return to what was then. It is now.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Philadelphia Museum of Art appoints new director
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