At a time when cultural establishments all around the nation are struggling to make a case for themselves in a digital world, and job descriptions for arts leaders have grown more and more advanced, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Basis on Monday introduced that it had named Mariët Westermann director and chief government of its museum group. Westermann, the vice chancellor of N.Y.U. Abu Dhabi within the United Arab Emirates, would be the first girl to direct the museum group, overseeing the Basis and its flagship establishment in New York, in addition to its international outposts in Venice, Bilbao and the longer term Guggenheim Abu Dhabi.
“She has run a serious operation in another country,” stated the museum’s chairman, J. Tomilson Hill. “She’s received nice credibility within the artwork world, and she’s going to have the ability to appeal to and retain extraordinary curators and different gifted professionals.”
(The opposite feminine chief within the museum’s historical past was Hilla Rebay, certainly one of its founders. She was the co-director of the Museum of Non-Goal Portray, a forerunner of the Guggenheim, and left in 1952. The Guggenheim was inbuilt 1959.)
The selection of Westermann, 61, to exchange Richard Armstrong, who retired as director final summer time, is one thing of a shock, provided that she shouldn’t be an expert museum director and her identify doesn’t usually seem on the checklist of candidates.
However she is acquainted to many within the artwork world, having beforehand served as government vice chairman on the Andrew W. Mellon Basis, which helps cultural establishments; as former director of N.Y.U.’s Institute of Positive Arts, which has educated artwork historians, curators and future museum administrators; and as affiliate director of analysis on the Clark Artwork Institute in Williamstown, Mass. In 2019, she turned vice chancellor at N.Y.U. Abu Dhabi, the place she can also be the chief government and a professor of arts and humanities.
“I do know the readability of her pondering, the care she has for artwork and artists, and her dedication to the sector,” stated Glenn D. Lowry, the director of the Museum of Fashionable Artwork. “I feel she’ll make an excellent colleague.”
In selecting a college chief as a museum chief, the Guggenheim follows the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork’s selection of Daniel H. Weiss, president and chief government, who stepped down earlier this yr; the American Museum of Pure Historical past, which final yr named Sean M. Decatur as its new president; and the J. Paul Getty Belief, which final yr appointed Katherine E. Fleming as its subsequent president and chief government.
A graduate of Williams School — the place she was magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa — Westermann went on to earn a Ph.D. and grasp’s diploma from N.Y.U.’s Institute of Positive Arts. Westermann is a historian of the artwork of the Netherlands, publishing books together with “A Worldly Artwork: The Dutch Republic 1585—1718” and “Rembrandt—Artwork and Concepts.”
Beginning June 1, Westermann will step into the position held for 14 years by Armstrong. She’s going to transfer to Manhattan to run the Guggenheim, which now has three satellites along with New York: Bilbao, Venice and Abu Dhabi, on Saadiyat Island.
Within the interim, the museum is being led by three of its deputy administrators: Naomi Beckwith, the chief curator; Sarah Austrian, the final counsel and secretary; and Marcy Withington, the chief monetary officer and performing chief working officer.
Westermann will take over an establishment nonetheless therapeutic from a interval of turmoil that included a 2020 letter from “The Curatorial Division” decrying what it known as an “inequitable work surroundings that permits racism”; the departure of a prime administrator, Nancy Spector, who was later cleared of costs of discrimination; removing of the Sackler identify from an training heart in 2022 after protesters known as consideration to that household’s ties to the opioid disaster; and greater than two years of bargaining over a union contract that was lastly ratified final August. Not too long ago, the Guggenheim briefly closed its entrance on Fifth Avenue after a protest contained in the museum denouncing Israel’s navy airstrikes in Gaza.
Furthermore, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi — designed by Frank Gehry, who additionally did the museum’s Bilbao satellite tv for pc in Spain — has been delayed, partially by protests over the plight of migrant employees on the mission, however is now scheduled to open in 2026.
Westermann stated it was too quickly for her to say something about Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, “besides that I’ve been excited to see the constructing rising so close to to me in a very exceptional district of establishments of artwork, pure historical past, science and tradition.”
She added that she was properly conscious of the hurdles concerned in operating “4 very distinctive museums in 4 distinguished buildings in 4 very dynamic cities.”
“The calls for on museum administrators right this moment are very sophisticated,” she stated. “The talent set you want for a constellation just like the Guggenheim is a problem and alternative that appears properly mapped onto the sorts of experiences I’ve had.”
Westermann may have the daunting process of getting Guggenheim Abu Dhabi over the end line and making that new location a vacation spot at a time of turmoil within the Center East.
Some within the artwork world will inevitably bemoan the Guggenheim appointment as yet one more missed alternative to nominate an individual of colour at a time when the world has grown extra delicate to the shortage of Black and Latino museum chiefs.
And Hill stated lots of these thought-about throughout the Guggenheim’s seek for a brand new director “have been folks of colour,” including that the museum had merely selected “the perfect individual for our wants.”
Mellon was certainly one of 4 funding teams — together with the Ford Basis, the Alice L. Walton Basis and Pilot Home Philanthropy — that final Could established the Management in Artwork Museums initiative, which dedicated greater than $11 million to museums to extend racial fairness in management improvement.
“Variety, inclusion and fairness are a core duty of any group right this moment,” Westermann stated. “It doesn’t matter in case you are a museum, a college, a company or a authorities company.”
In conducting its search, the museum totally examined “what the Guggenheim is, what the Guggenheim could possibly be, what are our failings, what are our successes,” Hill stated, likening that course of to “having remedy.”
Hill stated he personally had consulted eight folks within the area whose opinions he values, together with Nicholas Serota, the previous director of the Tate in Britain; Laurence des Vehicles, the present director of the Louvre Museum in Paris; Lonnie G. Bunch III, Secretary of the Smithsonian; and the artwork seller Larry Gagosian.
The Guggenheim decided its subsequent director wanted worldwide expertise but in addition needed to be “somebody refined in coping with governmental entities,” Hill added, “and in a position to not simply be a spokesperson for our museum however to deal with advanced negotiations.
“You want management within the job,” he added, “however you additionally profoundly want robust administration expertise.”
Darren Walker, president of the Ford Basis who has labored carefully with Westermann, introduced up one other qualification that he thought was important for the job.
“It takes somebody who has international administration,” he continued, “which she does.”
Westermann stated her expertise with universities had ready her properly for overseeing a posh of 4 museums during which “the worldwide is already native and the native impacts the worldwide.
“I look ahead to bringing these places collectively,” she added, “so that you get an actual sense of 1 Guggenheim.”