Phillips Oppenheim Tapped to Find New Leader for Museum for California Art

April 12, 2019 – Museums are increasingly turning to specialist recruiters to help fill critical senior-level leadership roles. As these positions grow more sophisticated and complex, the hunt for top-flight talent to fill these roles becomes all the more important. With that, search fees across the space are rising substantially, according to recruiters.

Executive search firm Phillips Oppenheim was recently selected by the Institute and Museum for California Art (IMCA). The University of California, Irvine (UCI) is establishing the museum to be a global center for the exhibition and study of California art. Principal Sarah James and partner Becky Klein are heading the assignment for the recruitment firm.

The IMCA museum director will be instrumental in forming and articulating the museum’s vision and mission as IMCA comes into existence, said Phillips Oppenheim. The individual will be expected to provide an informed and inspired creative vision and an artistic direction commensurate with UCI’s current accomplishments as one of the best public research universities in the world and its aspirations into the 21st century.

“The director will take the curatorial and administrative lead in shaping the museum’s role as a superlative arts institution, define the scope and direction of the institution’s exhibitions and public programming, and engage with important and diverse constituencies,” said Phillips Oppenheim.

Ideal Qualifications

The incoming leader must be an inspiring yet pragmatic leader, fundraiser and manager who can generate ideas as well as empower and support others to implement them. The ideal candidate should be optimistic, creative and enthusiastic about the potential for the IMCA and will have or be the following:

  • Demonstrated commitment to fostering a welcoming and productive environment for professionals from a wide audience diverse in age, race, color, national origin, gender, religion, sexual orientation, veteran status, political affiliation and disability; demonstrated effectiveness as a spokesperson and ambassador for an institution and its programs; excellent verbal and writing skills.

Related: DHR Taps CEO for Phoenix-Based Heard Museum

  • Senior staff-level administrative experience in an art museum known for high quality and excellence; experience working with and devising research around significant collections.
  • A deep knowledge of and commitment to California art; knowledge of the art world and its key players; an ability to translate this into meaningful collaborations and exhibitions for the institution that speak to the internal campus, external audiences and the national stage.
  • Active, energetic, visible, strategic, inspiring and collaborative leadership; ability to negotiate graciously yet remain clear, decisive, proactive, and fair; an understanding of the subtleties of motivating, directing and working with others.
  • Ability to build and nurture relationships with a wide range of individuals from artists to academics to collectors to business and civic leaders; proven fundraising ability from a variety of sources, including successful experience cultivating and soliciting gifts from individuals; capital and endowment campaign experience.

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

The UCI IMCA will be housed in a new facility of about 100,000 square feet, to be constructed on one of the most prominent sites of the campus. The museum will be dedicated to the curation, conservation and exhibition of the UCI collection which, already consisting of nearly 5,000 original artworks, is one of the most comprehensive collections of California art.

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.


Why Recruiters Center On Fundraising Skills
Organizations nationwide are under pressure to find leaders who can act as de facto chief fundraisers – and recruiters are in lock step to find talent to satisfy the demand. These leaders need to be strategic thinkers who can motivate the stakeholders whose philanthropy pulls everything together.

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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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