Organization: Harvard Art Museums

Location: Cambridge, MA

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About the Harvard Art Museums:

The Harvard Art Museums house one of the largest and most renowned art collections in the United States. The mission of the Harvard Art Museums is to bring to light the intrinsic power of art and promote critical looking and thinking for students, faculty and the public.

The museums are distinguished by the range and depth of their collections, their groundbreaking exhibitions and the original research of their staff. Integral to Harvard University and the wider community, the museums and research centers serve as resources for students, scholars and the public. For more than a century they have been a premier training ground for museum professionals and are renowned for their seminal role in developing the discipline of art history in the United States. The Harvard Art Museums have a rich tradition of considering the history of objects as an integral part of the teaching and study of art history, focusing on conservation and preservation concerns as well as technical studies.

The institution is comprised of three museums – the Fogg, Busch-Reisinger and Arthur M. Sackler museums – and four research centers.  The Fogg Museum includes Western art from the Middle Ages to the present; the Busch-Reisinger Museum, unique among North American museums, is dedicated to the study of all modes and periods of art from central and northern Europe, with an emphasis on German-speaking countries; and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum is focused on Asian art, Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern art, and Islamic and later Indian art. Together, the collections include approximately 250,000 objects in all media. The research centers include the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, the Center for the Technical Study of Modern Art, the Harvard Art Museums Archives, and the Archaeological Exploration of Sardis.

The 2014 renovation and expansion of the Harvard Art Museums carried on the legacies of the three museums and united their remarkable collections under one roof for the first time. Renzo Piano Building Workshop preserved the Fogg Museum’s landmark 1927 facility, while transforming the space to accommodate 21st-century needs. The Museums now feature 40 percent more gallery space, an expanded Art Study Center, conservation labs, classrooms and a striking glass roof that bridges the facility’s historic and contemporary architecture. The three constituent museums retain their distinct identities in the facility, yet their close proximity provides exciting opportunities to experience works of art in a broader context.

This is a particularly interesting chapter for the arts at Harvard. Since 2008, when the University released the Report of its Task Force on the Arts, there has been remarkable growth in the arts. The goal outlined by the Task Force expresses a strong interdisciplinary support for the arts:

“To allow innovation and imagination to thrive on our campus, to educate and empower creative minds across all disciplines, to help shape the twenty-first century, Harvard must make the arts an integral part of the cognitive life of the university: for along with the sciences and the humanities, the arts—as they are both experienced and practiced—are irreplaceable instruments of knowledge.”

Given this strong legacy and enviable foundation, the Harvard Art Museums’ leadership is looking ahead. Since the 2014 reopening, the museums have built a reputation for creative, extraordinary exhibitions and under the leadership of the next Chief Curator will achieve further acclaim for expanding audiences with intellectually and visually stimulating exhibitions.

For more information on the Harvard Art Museums, please visit its website.

The Opportunity:

The Chief Curator will be a critical member of the senior leadership team of the Harvard Art Museums, along with the Director, Deputy Director and Director of Institutional Advancement. S/he will report to the Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director and serve as a strong thought partner to the Director on a wide-ranging set of issues. As a member of the senior leadership team, s/he will participate in the strategic planning and execution of an array of divisional initiatives and collaborate across departments to achieve institutional goals and priorities. Working in close partnership with the Deputy Director, the Chief Curator will help realize the full potential of the museums.

Most fundamentally, the Chief Curator will lead all aspects of the curatorial program at the Harvard Art Museums. S/he will lead the curatorial team and advance the Harvard Art Museums’ mission to bring to light the intrinsic power of art and promote critical looking and thinking for students, faculty and the public. Under the leadership and guidance of the Chief Curator, the curatorial team will create timely and stimulating exhibitions, working with the collections of the Harvard Art Museums as well as loans from outside sources.

The Chief Curator will have significant responsibility for ensuring the strategic development and stewardship of the Harvard Art Museums’ collections with a vision towards how the collections are used to fulfill the museums’ unique mission as a teaching museum and premiere training ground for museum professionals, especially the rapidly evolving field of fine art curators.

As the leader of all aspects of the curatorial program, key responsibilities of the Chief Curator include:

  • Serving as a thought leader and partner to the curatorial team, building a collaborative culture amongst staff and developing and leading a distinctive curatorial program of exhibitions, publishing and interpretive programs that leverage the wide-ranging nature of the collections.
  • Aligning curatorial goals (in research, publishing, acquisitions, exhibitions and teaching) with the museums’ priorities and resources, recognizing the relationship between content and operations.
  • Leading and promoting cross-divisional/functional curatorial initiatives. Effectively managing, mentoring, training and developing curatorial staff. Nurturing excellent communication practices and encouraging an environment of collaboration and inclusion. Facilitating curatorial collaborations with Harvard faculty and participating in the training of interns and postgraduate curatorial fellows.
  • Partnering with the Division of Academic and Public Programs, Collections Management and the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies and working closely with division heads across the museums.
  • Overseeing the successful development and stewardship of the collection and encouraging a strategic approach to acquisitions and occasional collection refinement. Taking primary responsibility for building the collection in underrepresented areas that span curatorial divisions, working with all relevant curators, and within the overall collection strategy.
  • Developing projects and protocols that strengthen the position of the museums as a world-class art collection and research center as well as a premier training and teaching institution.
  • Broadening the museums’ participation in the university, local, national and international spheres through leadership in the field, building and leveraging connections with artists, scholars, dealers, collectors, donors, Harvard University colleagues and peer institutions.
  • Actively participating in fundraising, donor cultivation and donor and collector engagement.
  • Collaborating with the Communications division to effectively represent the museums in the media and with the publishing staff to develop innovative and scholarly publications, both print and digital, that showcase original research and exhibitions based on the collections.
  • Representing the museums within professional organizations, the community- locally, nationally and internationally- to ensure the museums have a lively and productive relationship with peer professionals and institutions, as well as, the creative community and general public.
  • Staying abreast of art world issues and identifying areas in which the Harvard Art Museums can play a leadership role.

The Chief Curator leads a staff of over 20 curators, including four divisional heads as direct reports as well as a cohort of 10 to 15 postgraduate fellows.

Candidate Profile:

The ideal candidate will have the following professional and personal skills, qualities and characteristics:

Leading Through Influence and Relationship Building

The Chief Curator will be skilled at building effective relationships at multiple levels across complex institutions. S/he will be a strong leader, communicator and collaborator and will have the ability to engage with the wide range of stakeholders including staff, faculty, donors and other partners. S/he will be effective at communicating Harvard Art Museums’ direction and strategy internally and externally and will be ready to put institutional priorities before personal ambitions. S/he will have the ability to develop a powerful sense of shared purpose in others and motivate them to engage the opportunities and challenges ahead, providing leadership for this next chapter. A leader with a strong sense of confidence and a style that will resonate in the Harvard community and beyond, the Chief Curator will have a high level of emotional intelligence and will develop productive and fulfilling relationships with key constituents.

Management Acumen

The Chief Curator will be a seasoned executive with a record of success in managing a curatorial department. S/he will have strong interpersonal skills and experience in building and leading teams. S/he will foster a culture of collaboration, mutual respect and teamwork. The Chief Curator will encourage and celebrate the talents of the team while also holding each accountable to mutually agreed-upon goals. Additionally, the Chief Curator will approach the curatorial department’s operations and finances with focus and balance and will make decisions based on a clear understanding of the strategic objectives of the museums.

Scholarship, Research and Curatorial Leadership

The Chief Curator will have a sophisticated understanding and passion for art and art history, the materials, techniques and condition of art objects, along with a robust record of exhibitions and scholarly publications. S/he will have demonstrable success conceptualizing, designing and implementing compelling curatorial strategies and will be adept at working with the staff and faculty to bring them to life. S/he will have a sophisticated understanding of the art market and will be enthusiastic about working in a rigorous intellectual environment in which students, faculty and teaching factor into the majority of projects. Lastly, the Chief Curator will be comfortable in the broader arts and cultural community to advance the mission of the Harvard Art Museums locally, nationally and internationally. S/he will have excellent oral and written communication skills.

Passion for the Mission

Fully embracing the mission of the Harvard Art Museums, the relationship with Harvard University and the commitment to the students, the Chief Curator will be passionate about working in partnership with the staff, faculty, students and other partners to advance the mission and curatorial agenda. In addition to his/her scholarly achievements, the Chief Curator will exude a commitment to, and an interest in, Harvard’s role as an institution of higher education and unique combination of cultural offerings. S/he will possess and promote a deep appreciation for, and knowledge of, the collections, buildings, history, research and scholarship and will demonstrate a commitment to public engagement and the visitor experience. Working closely with the Director, s/he will serve as a bridge between the internal staff, the University and external partners and will embody the values of the Harvard Art Museums. Finally, the ideal candidate is an individual of integrity, ethics and values, who can be trusted without reservation.

A Ph.D. in Art History or related field and a minimum of ten years of curatorial and five years of management experience in a museum setting are highly desired for this role. Knowledge of at least one foreign language would be preferred.

Contact:

Koya Leadership Partners, a national retained executive search firm that works exclusively with mission-driven clients, has been exclusively retained for this search. To make recommendations or express interest in this role please email Alison Ranney and Alexandra Corvin at HarvardArtMuseums@koyapartners.com. All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

About Koya Leadership Partners:

Koya Leadership Partners is a national retained executive search and human capital consulting firm that works exclusively with nonprofits and social enterprises. We deliver measurable results, finding exceptionally talented people who truly fit the unique culture of our client organizations and ensuring that organizations have the resources and strategies to support them. For more information about Koya Leadership Partners, visit www.koyapartners.com.