Phillips Oppenheim Seeks Director for the National Gallery of Art

November 21, 2018 – Executive search firm Phillips Oppenheim has been retained by the National Gallery of Art to lead its search for a new director. Principal Sarah James and partner Becky Klein are leading the assignment.

The director of the National Gallery of Art is responsible for the artistic vision and leadership of the gallery. He or she will oversee the National Gallery’s program of 20 to 25 exhibitions and more than 10 major print and digital publications a year. There are 12 curatorial and conservation departments, as well as the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, library, exhibitions, education, digital media, publishing, registrar, and design and installation operations.

Phillips Oppenheim said that the next director should be a respected leader in the field with the demonstrated ability to develop and execute a compelling vision that embraces and expands on what it means to be the nation’s art gallery.

Desired Qualifications

The director, said the search firm, will be expected to be a tested executive who will:

  • Lead with the knowledge, presence, integrity and ability to motivate and manage an accomplished professional staff and affirmatively influence institutional art collecting in the country.
  • Be committed to the mission and mandate of a truly national gallery that engages America’s rich diversity.

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  • Possess highly developed interpersonal skills to ensure successful relationship building, fundraising, advocacy, communication, and team building so that others, internally and externally, will support and follow; be respected by and proactive with national and international peers.

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  • Have a good “eye” and deep commitment to scholarship and education, and be able to appreciate and convey with passion the mission and work of the National Gallery of Art. (An advanced degree in art history is preferred.)
  • Understand fiscal and operational constraints including certain federal requirements; be a persuasive partner with Congress and the Administration and advocate among competing priorities; be adept in government engagement and professionally apolitical.

The National Gallery of Art was conceived as “a collection of collections” and given to the people of the U.S. by Andrew W. Mellon, a financier and art collector from Pittsburgh who came to Washington, D.C. in 1921 to serve as secretary of the treasury.

Related: Howe-Lewis International Seeks CEO for National Trust for Historic Preservation

Today, the National Gallery has benefitted from an extensive renovation of its expansive campus and added the six-acre Laurie D. Olin-designed Sculpture Garden in 1999, fulfilling a 30-year master plan. In 2014, the National Gallery assumed stewardship of the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s world-renowned collection of paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, prints, drawings and photographs, acquiring more than 8,000 of the over 18,000 works and enhancing public access to the country’s diverse cultural legacy. The gallery’s 152,000-object collection comprises primarily European and American art from the Renaissance to the present day,

Finding Mission-Driven Leaders

Phillips Oppenheim, founded in 1991, provides mission-driven organizations with senior leaders from the business, public and non-profit sectors. It sponsors roundtable discussions, participates in workshops and conferences and acts as informal counsel to non-profit organizations and their boards. Among its large list of clients: New York City Ballet, the Museum of the American Revolution, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Arts Club, Table to Table, the African Wildlife Foundation and the Barack Obama Presidential Museum, among many others.


New York City Ballet Taps Phillips Oppenheim to Find Director
A number of executive search firms have been on the hunt for artistic directors for their non-profit clients. New York City Ballet and the School of American Ballet is the latest — selecting boutique recruiters Phillips Oppenheim.


Ms. James has been recruiting for local, national and international non-profit institutions and corporations since 1996. A generalist, she has recruited chief executives for leading arts, aid, advocacy, education, environmental, faith-based, healthcare, philanthropic and social service institutions. Since joining Phillips Oppenheim in 2001, she has founded its visual arts practice, recruiting directors for more than one hundred art institutions.

Ms. Klein has combined search experience with the arts during her professional career. She joined Phillips Oppenheim in 1993, became a partner in the firm in 2000 and serves as the firm’s managing partner. While bringing a special focus on cultural institutions, Ms. Klein has worked with a diverse range of clients including foundations, social justice, advocacy organizations and academic institutions across the U.S. and internationally.

Related: Arts Consulting Group Finds New Leader for the National Czech & Slovak Library and Museum

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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