Guggenheim Museum Group appointed Mariët Westermann as Chief Executive

Written by: Jean-Charles Lacoste



Time to read 1 min

The Appointment of Mariët Westermann

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation have appointed Mariët Westermann as the director and chief executive of its museum group, marking her as the first woman to lead the entire museum group.

Westermann, currently the vice chancellor of N.Y.U. Abu Dhabi, is set to oversee the Guggenheim's flagship institution in New York and its global outposts in Venice, Bilbao, and the upcoming Guggenheim Abu Dhabi.

Despite not having a traditional museum director background, Westermann, with her experience in cultural institutions, arts leadership, and academia, is recognized for her credibility in the art world.

This appointment reflects a broader trend of selecting university leaders to head cultural institutions, mirroring similar choices made by other museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Challenges and Context

The Guggenheim's decision comes amid a period of institutional challenges, including internal disputes, leadership changes, and delays in the opening of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi.

Westermann, a historian of Dutch art, acknowledges the complexities of leading four distinctive museums in dynamic cities.

She aims to address challenges such as ongoing union negotiations and recent protests related to geopolitical issues.

Westermann's appointment has sparked discussions about diversity in museum leadership, even as the Guggenheim has made progress in this area by appointing individuals like Ashley James and Naomi Beckwith.

Qualifications and Criticisms

Westermann's global management experience, her role in overseeing the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi project, and her familiarity with running major operations in foreign countries were cited as key qualifications for the position.

Despite potential criticisms, the Guggenheim asserts that the selection process considered a diverse range of candidates, ultimately choosing the best person for the role.

Westermann is set to take over on June 1, expressing her commitment to addressing the complexities of running a constellation of museums and emphasizing the importance of diversity, inclusion, and equity in today's cultural organizations.