The director of the Guggenheim resigns

Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, said he planned to retire from his post next year, ending more than 14 years at the helm of the institution and its international affiliates.

Armstrong, whose mandate included weathering the pandemic and responding to calls for change around racial inequalities, both internally and on museum walls, announced the move in an interview with The Financial Times that was published on Friday.

“Sometime next spring,” he said in the interview, “I will be leaving the museum. It will be almost 15 years by then and that is a long time. The board is rejuvenated and active, it’s a good time”.

In a press release, the museum said that before Armstrong resigns in 2023, it will work with its board of directors to find his successor.

Under his leadership, Armstrong has been tasked in recent years with responding to unionization efforts and outcry over what members of the museum’s curatorial department called an “unequal work environment that enables racism, white supremacy, and other practices.” discriminatory”. Armstrong responded to calls for change by opening conversations with curators and saying that he saw it as an opportunity to become a more diverse and equitable organization.

The museum later approved a plan to address those complaints, making it one of the first major cultural organizations to provide details of an expanded diversity effort amid industry-wide calls for change. The plan included promises to strengthen policies around reporting discrimination, and a new committee was charged with examining the institution’s exhibits and acquisitions through the lens of equity and diversity.

After one of the museum’s top administrators, Nancy Spector, resigned amid accusations of racism, the museum named Naomi Beckwith to succeed her, making her the institution’s first black deputy director and chief curator. Another leadership change followed later that year, when billionaire collector J. Tomilson Hill was named chairman of the board, and writer Claudia Rankine was chosen as the second African-American woman in her history.

Armstrong also oversaw a particularly tumultuous period several years ago when the Guggenheim was looking to expand abroad with a new museum in Abu Dhabi. The project was met with protests and demands for guarantees that workers would be paid and treated fairly, prompting Armstrong to promise that the museum was deeply committed to labor issues. The long-delayed project is scheduled for completion in 2025, after Armstrong’s departure.

Another major change under Armstrong came earlier this year, when the Guggenheim quietly removed the Sackler name from an educational center over the family’s ties to the opioid crisis.

“As a leadership team, we have listened, learned and adapted to meet the changing dynamics of our program, brand, audiences and sponsors,” Armstrong said in a statement. “I look forward to seeing the Guggenheim community continue to flourish and be a catalyst for inventive thinking and transformative art experiences long after I am gone.”

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