Executive Director/Chief Curator, The Renaissance Society

Executive Director/Chief Curator, The Renaissance Society

The University of Chicago

Chicago, IL   |   November 6, 2019

About The Renaissance Society

The Renaissance Society is an internationally renowned non-collecting museum of contemporary art located on the campus of The University of Chicago.

The Renaissance Society is driven by an uncompromising commitment to artists and their ideas and promotes artists whose work questions, expands, and re-imagines the aesthetic boundaries of the visual arts. Presenting four exhibitions a year, the museum is a uniquely intimate platform for encountering artistic expressions that give form to, challenge, and complicate currents in contemporary thought.

The Renaissance Society offers artists the time, space, resources, and freedom that are vital for ambitious experimentation. This frequently results in newly commissioned artworks. Artists’ presentations in its 3,000Csquare-foot gallery spur scholarly and creative reflections in the museum’s wide-ranging educational program, which complements the exhibitions with lectures, literary readings, film screenings, discussions, performances, and concerts.

Producing three to five books every year, the museum’s publication program is another pillar of its activities. Published and edited by the Renaissance Society, these titles are distributed by the University of Chicago Press.

Preserving the history of the Renaissance Society and contributing to the body of knowledge about contemporary art, the museum has digitally archived documentation from its entire history. The museum’s website is today an important resource for scholars and researchers. All exhibitions and events are free and open to the public.

Please see the Renaissance Society website for more information.


The Renaissance Society was founded in 1915 by a group of University of Chicago faculty. The name refers to their intention to create a space in which to foster engagement with new ideas in arts and culture.

In the early 20th century the Renaissance Society played a key role in bringing avant-garde practices, from Europe and around the US, to Chicago through presentations of Henri Matisse, Alexander Calder, Fernand Léger, Mies Van Der Rohe, Käthe Kollwitz, and Joseph Cornell, among others.

Under the pivotal 40-year leadership of Susanne Ghez, from 1973 to 2013, the Renaissance Society hosted the Chicago debuts of Bruce Nauman, Joseph Kosuth, and Jenny Holzer, and key solo exhibitions by Mike Kelley, Isa Genzken, Felix Gonzales-Torres, Kara Walker, Kerry James Marshall, Joan Jonas, and Danh Vō, among other notable exhibitions.

Solveig Øvstebø joined the Renaissance Society as Executive Director and Chief Curator in 2013. She has since redoubled the institution’s commitment to the production of new works of art, commissioning major projects by Mathias Poledna, Nora Schultz, Peter Wächtler, Alejandro Cesarco, Jennifer Packer, Liz Magor, LaToya Ruby Frazier, and others.

In 2019, Øvstebø secured a $1 million gift from the Mansueto Foundation, which underwrites the Renaissance Society’s publishing program for ten years at its current level of production.

Solveig Øvstebø has announced that she will step down from the Museum in February 2020, after seven years of leadership. As the Renaissance Society continues to develop its ground-breaking program, it seeks to recruit a visionary and innovative Curator/Director who is eager to honor and build upon the institution’s invaluable legacy and to ensure an equally unique and compelling next chapter in its 104-year history.

Main Focus, Priorities, and Key Responsibilities

The Executive Director serves as the Chief Curator and Chief Executive Officer of The Renaissance Society and is responsible for its overall management, including its exhibitions and programs, its physical and financial resources, its personnel, and its future growth and development.

The Executive Director manages a full- and part-time staff of eight, reports to the Board of Directors through the president of the Board, and works closely with the Executive Committee and other standing and ad hoc committees of the Board. The Executive Director is an ex-officio member of the Board and serves on all its committees. On an ongoing basis, the Executive Director will:


  • Provide the curatorial vision and leadership for the museum’s artistic direction, growth, and development.
  • Give direction to the exhibition, education, development, and communications programs.
  • Take a leadership role, whenever possible, in the local, regional, and national artistic community to further the goals of collaboration and cooperation among arts organizations and to expand interest in and support for the Renaissance Society and its programs.
  • Ensure that the museum’s reputation and service to the public is of the highest quality, engendering understanding of and enthusiasm for the contemporary arts.


  • Serve as Chief Curator and supervise exhibition and education programs that support the Renaissance Society’s mission and maintain its reputation for experimentation and artist-driven projects.
  • Initiate and oversee the production of high-quality publications that support and further the understanding of works and of artists presented.
  • Oversee and direct the Renaissance Society’s web archive.
  • Maximize the resources of the museum by engaging in cooperative programming and joint ventures with other institutions regionally, nationally, and internationally.
  • Maintain long-term relationships with exhibited artists and their gallerists, and continuing engagement with the generally contemporary art audience.


  • Supervise a highly qualified and motivated professional staff, delegating specific responsibilities and appropriate authority; holding individuals accountable for specific and collective performance, cultivating a spirit of teamwork; and maintaining morale and providing direction.
  • Encourage programmatic innovation.
  • Oversee the museum’s financial operations; develop its budget; ensure that staff and programming keep within the allocated financial resources; provide the Board with timely financial data for budgeting decisions and fundraising plans.
  • Evaluate fundraising efforts to date; develop a fundraising strategy appropriate to the Renaissance Society’s audience, patrons, and potential supporters; maintain existing funding sources and cultivate new ones; work with development, communications, and other personnel on grant proposals and fundraising events; join Board members and appropriate staff in all other fund solicitation; oversee earned income opportunities through exhibition travel, publication sales and promotion, edition sales and promotions.
  • Plan and oversee the repair, renovation, and maintenance of the museum’s physical plant; coordinate with the University of Chicago facilities department as required.

Visibility – Development

  • Nurture relationships with the existing Board of Directors to maximize their interest and involvement in the growth and development of the Renaissance Society.
  • Solidify relationships between the museum and The University of Chicago’s faculty and administrators and its surrounding community to further the museum’s mission.
  • Maintain the Renaissance Society’s prominent visibility and relevance in the international visual arts community and continue to enhance it regionally and nationally.
  • Through involvement in and with these communities, build visibility and audiences for the Renaissance Society, increasing awareness of it and enhancing its profile to grow the donor base.
  • Develop strong, long-term relationships among artists, the staff, and the general public;
  • Serve as liaison with The University of Chicago through the Provost for the Arts.
Candidate Profile

The Executive Director will be an experienced curator with an informed eye and exceptional vision who will also be expected to be a qualified administrative executive director, fundraiser, and active representative for the Renaissance Society in the local, national and international communities.

Top candidates should possess the following professional expertise, leadership competencies, and personal qualities:

  • A deep and passionate commitment to art, and, in particular, the art of our time.
  • A strong affinity for the mission of the Renaissance Society.
  • Extensive experience in the field.
  • A sizable network, including museum colleagues, artists, and gallery contacts.
  • Prior experience with operations at a museum or Kunsthalle.
  • Strong organizational skills with proven ability to focus and prioritize.
  • The ability to manage financial operations.
  • An enthusiastic and successful fundraiser.
  • Excellent writing and communication skills.
  • Strong interpersonal and leadership skills.
  • Able to be effective under pressure and handle constant multitasking.
  • Willing and able to sustain a demanding travel schedule while staying closely engaged at the museum.
  • A self-starter and creative problem-solver, undaunted by a lean institution.
  • A track record of fostering a collaborative working environment while coalescing others around objectives and their successful implementation.
  • Strongly desired but not required: an advanced degree in an art-related field.

Naree Viner and Stephen Milbauer of Koya Leadership Partners have been exclusively retained for this search. To express your interest in this role please submit your materials here or email Naree directly at nviner@koyapartners.com. All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

At Koya, we don’t just accept difference – we celebrate it, support it, and thrive on it for the benefit of our team, our clients, and the communities we serve. Koya is an equal opportunity employer fully committed to creating an environment and team that represents a variety of backgrounds, perspectives, styles, and experiences.

About Koya Leadership Partners

Koya Leadership Partners is a retained executive search and human capital consulting firm that partners exclusively with mission-driven clients, institutions of higher education and social enterprises. We deliver measurable results, finding exceptionally talented people who truly fit the unique culture of our clients and ensuring they have the strategies to support them. For more information about Koya Leadership Partners, visit www.koyapartners.com.