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First Woman Director Appointed to US National Gallery of Art

‘I’m a feminist, and I have long advocated for gender equality’: Kaywin Feldman will succeed Earl A. Powell III in March 2019

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Kaywin Feldman, 2018. Courtesy: National Gallery of Art, Washington

Kaywin Feldman, 2018. Courtesy: National Gallery of Art, Washington

Kaywin Feldman has been appointed as Director of The National Gallery of Art, Washington. She will be the first woman to hold the job in the museum’s 77-year history.

Currently the director and president of the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia), Feldman will succeed Earl A. Powell III, who has served as the National Gallery of Art’s director since 1992. In November 2017 Powell announced that he would step down in 2019. Feldman is scheduled to start her new role on 11 March 2019.

As director of Mia for a decade, Feldman grew the museum’s collection, which spans 20,000 years and has objects from six continents, and is reported to have doubled the visitor figures to 783,000 in 2017. At the Minneapolis museum, she also established a contemporary art department, founded the Center for Empathy in Visual Arts and introduced free admission. Feldman also used her position to focus on the local community, offerings classes for immigrants to prepare for their naturalization exams.

‘Certainly, my greatest moments of happiness throughout my 25-year career as a museum director have been watching the impact of work that the museum does on the community,’ Feldman said. ‘I’m really excited get to know the greater Washington community better and understand [their] needs.’

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West Building of the National Gallery of Art, 2010. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

West Building of the National Gallery of Art, 2010. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Previously, Feldman worked as director of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art (1999–2007) held positions as president of the Association of Art Museum Directors and chair of the American Alliance of Museums.

Feldman said of her appointment: ‘I really have to applaud the trustees of the National Gallery who from the beginning [of] their search process, set out diversity, equity and inclusion as one of their primary goals. They’re walking the talk.’

‘I’m a feminist, and I have long advocated for gender equality, so it’s really exciting for me to be able to lead the nation’s art museum.’

The National Gallery of Art is the second-most attended museum in the United States, boasting 5.2 million annual visitors. According to a recent Washington Post article staff interviews have identified concerns about ‘poor management’, ‘long-standing problems of sexual harassment’, ’haphazard handling of [sexual harassment] complaints’ and ’retaliation and favouritism.’ The museum has not commented on the article.

When asked about these issues Feldman said: ‘It’s too early for me to identify anything specific, but what I would say is, I will do the same thing at the NGA as when I first came [to Mia], which is to dedicate the first year to doing a lot of listening.’

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