In The Frame: A Condensed Guide to Prominent Directors of Mainstream Museums in North America, Europe, and Australia

This blog series isn't just about women who produce art—it's also about the women who support and promote it. Like most industries, gender inequality is rife in the art world, but I thought it only fair to find out who is representing us and if there looks to be a shift towards more female directors of galleries and museums. Some of them are managing to generate women-only exhibitions, such as Diane Lee's at the Imperial War Museum in London, which currently has a "Women War Artists" show that is really inspirational.

I know it's a bit depressing looking at a list like this—and I'm hoping many of you will be able to fill in the gaps, as there is no coherent national or global record of museum and gallery directors that I know of other than the British and Canadian ones I've used below—but basically I wanted to show how worrying it is that we can condense women's representation in this field into a few paragraphs. (Of course, I live in the UK so the bulk of my knowledge and research is on Western institutions in English-speaking countries, so again, please help fill in the gaps if you have information on galleries in other countries) I found many institutions that I hoped were coordinated by females or had some kind of female influence, but time and time again I would discover that a man was running the show. It became very frustrating and, to be honest, I find it boring that the directorship seems to be so homogenous, with many of the other executives and board members also being male. After all, there is nothing to say that this job needs to have male influence or that more men visit galleries than women. As far as I know, visitors are much more likely to be disproportionately represented by class than gender; official studies have shown that the less disposable income you have, the less likely you are to visit a museum or gallery, except if it's very close to where you live (in which case, the convenience factor takes over).

My hope with this list is that you get a few ideas about which institutions you should support, if you want to consciously support female directors. This is just one way of addressing feminist issues in the art world—by engaging with places that are led by women, you are voting with your eyes and your feet. Equally, by visiting a male-run gallery and writing in the "Comments" slip that you'd like to see more women on the board, you're making your opinions known; in fact, the Guerrilla Girls actively encourage you to do so. If we all went into one art venue and called for more of a gender balance on its executive panel, or more female artists on the walls, we'd really get them thinking. So seek out women directors and see what they're up to—let them know you'd like them to stay on top.

A Condensed Guide to Prominent Directors of Mainstream Museums and Galleries in North America, Europe, and Australia

United States:

  • Catherine M. Pears - Alexandria Museum of Art (Louisiana)
  • Ellen Futter - American Museum of Natural History (New York)
  • Sarah J. Bloomfield - United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (Washington D.C)

Australia:

  • Elizabeth Ann MacGregor - Museum of Contemporary Art (Sydney)
  • Betty Churcher - Art Gallery of Western Australia (1987-1990) and National Gallery of Australia (1990-1997)

Austria:

  • Margot Schindler - Austrian Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art (Vienna)
  • If you want to read more about European women leading the way in arts and science then the Wien International website has an entire series focusing on the topic.

Canada:

  • Janet Carding - Royal Ontario Museum (Ontario)
  • Kathleen Bartels - Vancouver Art Gallery (Vancouver)
  • Nathalie Bondil - Montreal Museum of Fine Art (Montreal)
  • If you want to learn more about the directors of Canadian museums and galleries then check out the Canadian Art Museum Directors' Association.

Croatia:

  • Snježana Pintarić - Museum of Contemporary Art (Zagreb)

Poland:

  • Maria Anna Potocka - Museum of Contemporary Art (Krakow)

Holland:

  • Ann Goldstein - Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam)

Russia:

  • Irena Alexandrovna Antonova - Pushkin Museum of Fine Art (Moscow)
  • Slovakia:

    • Alexandra Kusa - Slovak National Gallery (Bratislava)

    UK:

  • Rita McLean - Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (Birmingham)
  • Diane Lees - Imperial War Museum (London)
  • Kathleen Soriano - Royal Academy (London)
  • Julie Peyton-Jones - Serpentine Gallery (London)
  • Iwona Blazwick - Whitechapel Art Gallery (London)
  • Dr. Ellen McAdam - Glasgow Museums (Scotland)
  • If you want to learn more about British museum and gallery directors then check out the National Museum Directors' Conference.
  • I'm aware that this list is incomplete—I'd love to hear your suggestions for other women who are leading the way in art directorship!

    Here's hoping that lists like mine will be redundant in the future, and that we won't have to think of women on art boards and in the Director's Office as an endangered species.

    Previously: How Did You Discover Feminist Art?, Women of the Harlem Renaissance

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    Comments

    9 comments have been made. Post a comment.

    Linda Downs

    Linda Downs (currently executive director of the College Art Association) was the director of the Davenport Museum of Art/Figge Art Museum, I think from 2002-2006. (DMA became the Figge Art Museum in 2005.)

    & there's also the

    & there's also the now-deceased but still locally revered Anne d'Harnoncourt, former director of the Philly Museum of Art - she pretty much single-handedly made the PMA the institution it is today

    http://www.philamuseum.org/exhibitions/348.html

    yay

    Glad to see the Vancouver Art Museum on the list! I've been there a few times and didn't realize it that the director was female.

    More in Quebec

    Howdy!

    Also missing from your list:
    Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal - Paulette Gagnon
    Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec - Line Ouellet
    Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History - Francine Lelièvre
    Canadian Centre for Architecture - Phyllis Lambert
    Cinémathèque Québécoise - Yolande Racine
    Musée McCord - Suzanne Sauvage
    Musée d'art de Joliette - Gaëtane Verna

    It's almost like there's a law here in Quebec that in order to run a museum you must be a woman.

    Your US list is woefully

    Your US list is woefully incomplete! We have a long way to go, but there are many museum directors who are women, and some lead some of the most esteemed institutions in the country. My list is not complete either...these are simply off the top of my head. If you'd like to discuss further please shoot me an email (I work in the field) alisondwade (at) gmail (dot) com
    It's also worth noting that the Royal Ontario Museum is Canada's largest museum and they have a woman at the helm...pretty cool if you ask me.

    Walker Art Center: Olga Viso
    Minneapolis Institute of Arts: Kaywin Feldman
    ICA Boston: Jill Medvedow
    Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: Anne Hawley
    Birmingham Museum of Art (AL): Gail Andrews
    Phillips Collection: Dorothy Kosinksi
    Oakland Museum of California: Lori Fogarty
    Melissa Chiu- Asia Society Museum
    New Orleans Museum of Art: Susan Taylor
    Wadsworth Atheneum: Susan Talbott
    Currier Museum (NH): Susan Strickler
    Roxana Velasquez: San Diego Museum of Arts
    Museum of Contemporary Art chicago: Madeleine Grynsztejn
    Thelma Golden: Studio Museum in Harlem
    Danielle Rice: Delaware Museum of Art

    Thank you!

    Thank you for mentioning the MIA and Walker. As a native Minnesotan, I was absolutely ready to jump on those two. Lyndel King is also the Director and Head Curator at the Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota. Apparently the Twin Cities is a pretty decent place for women in art.

    Thanks for the feedback :)

    I just wanted to thank everyone who's commented for adding to the list. You wouldn't believe how difficult it was to research this online, especially once you get past the world famous museums and galleries, because there is no central resource for finding out this kind of stuff, even though it's clearly important to a lot of us that we find out where women have a voice. It's great to know that you're all out there finding out what the art scene is like near you.

    As you can tell, I wasn't particularly strong on the US section (hey, it's a vast place), but I managed to find quite a few UK-based female directors. Maybe if we all pool our knowledge then we could get some kind of directory list set up.

    Polly Allen

    National Museum of Australia

    The inaugural Director of the National Museum of Australia was Dawn Casey, although her tenure doesn't seem to have been a happy one. She is now the director of Sydney's Powerhouse Museum.

    NE art museum directors--

    I don't know about major but Audrey Kauders is the Director of the Museum of Nebraska Art and has shown great leadership with various solo shows of women artists and minority artists.