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Gerry Lenfest, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Philadelphia Museum of Art, today announced the board’s unanimous vote to appoint Chief Operating Officer Gail Harrity as the Museum’s Interim Chief Executive Officer, and Associate Director of Collections Alice Beamesderfer as Interim Head of Curatorial Affairs. These appointments, effective immediately, follow the unexpected death on June 1 of Anne d’Harnoncourt, The George D. Widener Director and Chief Executive Officer. A selection committee co-chaired by Trustees Martha Morris and Keith Sachs will be organized in the coming weeks to search for a permanent successor.
“Our great Museum is moving forward on its steady course. We are fortunate to have an excellent staff throughout the Museum and a longstanding continuity of outstanding service. In Gail and Alice we have two leaders who have served the institution with distinction and who will assure that our program and operations run smoothly. These professionals have worked closely with Anne over the years, share her vision, and together with the Board and staff will guide the institution through able stewardship.”
Since joining the Museum as Chief Operating Officer in 1997, Gail Harrity has led the Museum’s overall financial, management and marketing and communications, including membership and information services which has created a single collections database of the Museum’s 225,000 objects and a new website enabling better public use of the Museum’s collections. She has worked closely with the Board on governance issues, Museum policies and strategic plans for the Museum and has taken a lead role in master planning and facilities development. Earlier in her career, Ms. Harrity served as Deputy Director at New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, where she was project director for the Museum in planning for the Frank O. Gehry designed Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain. Before that she served as the Guggenheim Museum’s Deputy Director for Finance and Administration. From 1982 to 1989 Ms. Harrity worked in a variety of positions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, including Assistant Treasurer and Chief of Budget, Planning and Government Relations.
Ms. Harrity is involved in active leadership of many cultural and business ventures, serving as a Board member of regional, national, and international organizations, including the Parkway Council Foundation, the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, the American Association of Museums, and the International Council of Museums. She also serves on the Yale School of Management Board of Advisors. In 2002, Ms. Harrity was the recipient of an Eisenhower Fellowship, an international program promoting the exchange of information, ideas, and perspectives among emerging leaders throughout the world and was the first Eisenhower Fellow to go to China. She received her BA from Boston University (1973) and MBA in Public and Private Management at the Yale School of Management (1982). She is a native of Rosemont, PA, and lives in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia.
The Associate Director for Collections and Project Support since 2001, Alice Beamesderfer has worked in a series of key positions at the Museum since arriving in 1987 as coordinator for Philadelphia Art Now (1990), a three-year project to promote the work of Philadelphia artists, and as organizer of the exhibition Contemporary Philadelphia Artists (1990). Ms. Beamesderfer has served as Special Assistant to the Director for Projects (1990-1996) and Assistant Director for Collections and Project Support (1996-2001). In 2002, she organized the exhibition and catalogue Gifts in Honor of the 125th Anniversary of the Museum, and most recently collaborated with Anne d’Harnoncourt and Carlos Basualdo on the exhibition A Conversation in Three Dimensions: Sculpture from the Collections. Ms. Beamesderfer works closely with the Museum’s curators and conservators on all collections-related matters, such as gallery installations, acquisitions, loans to special exhibitions, and collections management and documentation.
Prior to her work at the Museum, Ms. Beamesderfer was Special Assistant to the Director at the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania (1985-1986). She received her BA from The Pennsylvania State University, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She is a native Philadelphian and serves on the boards of the Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial and the Foundation for Self-Taught American Artists. She lives in Media, PA.
In addition to these interim appointments, the Board has established a Curatorial Advisory Group, consisting of Joseph R. Rishel, The Gisela and Dennis Alter Senior Curator of European Painting before 1900, the John G. Johnson Collection, and the Rodin Museum; Innis Shoemaker, the Audrey and William H. Helfand Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs; and Kathleen A. Foster, the Robert L. McNeil Jr. Senior Curator of American Art and Director, Center for American Art. This group will work closely with Ms. Beamesderfer on curatorial matters. Each of these prominent senior curators has been on staff at the Museum for many years (Ms. Shoemaker since 1986; Mr. Rishel since 1971; and Ms. Foster since 2002).
“The Museum‘s history of excellence dates to its auspicious beginnings as an outgrowth of the Centennial Exhibition of 1876,” added Board Chairman Lenfest. “It has grown step by step under generations of visionary leadership that have built lasting legacies. Anne’s leadership has made a great museum greater, and in honoring her own extraordinary legacy, the Board of Trustees and staff are committed to its continuity and the Museum’s continued growth and excellence.”