Anne Philbin, who transformed the Hammer Museum into a contemporary art destination during her nearly 25 years as its director and helped transform Los Angeles’ cultural landscape, will step down from her position next year, the museum announced Wednesday.
Philbin’s decision marks a turning point in the city’s art world and opens up a high-profile status as several other prominent institutions across the country have recently undergone leadership changes, including New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art and San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art. And the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Under Philbin, the Hammer Museum — initially built by industrialist Armand Hammer to showcase his collection of old masters and other works — embraced contemporary art and became an important platform for underappreciated emerging artists with a focus on social justice.
Adam D. said: Weinberg, director of the Whitney Museum: “It has become a major museum with an international reputation.” “Annie will go on to become one of the greatest museum directors of her generation.”
With the help of an outside search firm, Hammer’s board will select a successor that it will then propose to the University of California, Los Angeles, which took over management of the museum after Hammer’s death. In a period of heightened awareness about the dearth of Black and Latino museum directors, Marcy Carsey, president of the Hammer Foundation, said the search will include a diverse group of candidates.
Carsey said it will be difficult to fill Philbin’s shoes.
“The hammer is Annie and Annie is the hammer,” she said. “I don’t remember any organization being so influenced by one person.”
Philbin, 71, who plans to step down on November 1, 2024, said in a lunch interview in her office that she had done so. I’ve been thinking about leaving since the pandemic.
“It made me think about how short life is, but also think about what is best for this organization,” she said. “There’s a generational shift happening — it’s a really important moment — and it’s time for the next person to come into this place and take it to the next level.”
Part of this generational shift will require the ability to confront new challenges, including the rise of artificial intelligence, diversity issues, labor strife, and work-life balance.
But there’s a core Hammer identity that Philbin said she’d like to see endure: “an attention to things that are hidden, emerging, or unknown.”
“I hope this will always be something this museum does, because it is unique in the way we do it,” she continued.
Philbin, who is warm, tough and known as a fierce champion of artists, said she has largely accomplished what she set out to do.
She built up the museum’s staff and expanded its budget from $6 million to $30 million and its endowment from $35 million to more than $125 million. During its tenure, the museum added more than 4,000 pieces of contemporary art to its collection.
The Hammer has also become a center for artistic brewing as well as a gathering place for lectures, parties and lunches (at the popular Lulu restaurant). The museum’s annual “Party in the Park” fundraiser has also become a celebrity-attracting event.
It updated the building with an intermittent $90 million renovation project that was recently completed.
“I watched her build the hammer into what it is today,” artist Mark Bradford said, adding that Philbin did so “calmly” and “with a great deal of grace.”
“All of a sudden you look at the building, and it’s twice as big as it was before,” Bradford added. “Diversity, equity and inclusion were really present in the program. They were there to support the artists’ vision over and over again.
Philbin came to Hammer in January 1999, after nine years as director of the Drawing Center in New York. Under her leadership, the Hammer Foundation has helped advance the careers of local artists through its biennial “Made in Los Angeles” exhibition, and has brought national attention to curators who have led other foundations, including Anne Ellegood, who now serves as director of the Institute. modern Art. , Los Angeles, and Connie Butler, who in May was appointed director of MoMA PS1.
“She made the hammer a true reflection of the complexity and breadth of the city,” said artist Barbara Kruger, who serves on the museum’s board of directors.
The Hammer is also vocal about its progressive politics. The museum’s mission statement says it “believes in the promise that art and ideas offer to illuminate our lives and build a more just world.”
Since then, she has “shed the spotlight on contemporary art and artists in a way that has never faltered,” said artist Larry Pittman, a longtime UCLA art professor who helped convince Philbin to come to the museum in the first place.
As for her next chapter, Philbin said she doesn’t see herself leading another organization, but she’s not sure what comes next. “I don’t know what it is, but something is going to happen,” she said. “I want to take a break for a few minutes. I haven’t taken a break in 50 years.”
“Travel junkie. Coffee lover. Incurable social media evangelist. Zombie maven.”