Published: June 3, 2008
Anne d’Harnoncourt, director and CEO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, who led the institution since 1982, died June 1 at her home in Center City, of natural causes.
“Anne’s death is a severe loss to our beloved museum, to the world of art and to those who knew and loved her,” said Gerry Lenfest, chairman of the board of trustees of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “I have never known a person with more human attributes: she was learned, a gifted speaker, had an effervescent personality, was a great director and, above all, a deeply caring person. We will miss her greatly.”
An internationally respected art historian and museum leader, she served as the George D. Widener Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art since 1982, and as both director and chief executive officer of the museum since 1997.
As director, d’Harnoncourt fostered the growth and distinction of the museum’s professional staff, and encouraged a sequence of major exhibitions and publications by museum curators and scholars. Among these are the retrospectives “Brancusi,” 1995; “Cézanne,” 1996; “Hon’ami Koetsu,” 2000; “Barnett Newman,” 2002; and “Salvador Dalí,” 2005, and surveys on topics ranging from “The Pennsylvania Germans: A Celebration of Their Arts,” 1983, to “Japanese Design,” 1994, and “The Splendor of Eighteenth Century Rome,” 2000.
Between 1992 and 1995, d’Harnoncourt oversaw a massive project to reinstall all of the European collections in more than 90 galleries; renovation of 20 galleries of modern and contemporary art followed in 2000. Also in 2000, the museum achieved a long-term goal by acquiring the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building, a neighboring landmark, which opened in September 2007 with greatly expanded, state-of-the-art facilities for the museum’s collections of prints, drawings and photographs, costume and textiles, modern and contemporary design, and the library and archives.
D’Harnoncourt led the museum through two major capital campaigns: $64 million was raised between 1986 and 1993, and the Landmark Renewal Fund, which concluded in 2004, raising more than $246 million.
A specialist in the art of Marcel Duchamp, d’Harnoncourt served as the museum’s curator of Twentieth Century Art from 1972 to 1982. She co-organized a major Duchamp retrospective, which traveled to the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Art Institute of Chicago.
During her tenure as curator, the museum built its contemporary collections and acquired important works by Jasper Johns, Brice Marden, Agnes Martin, Ellsworth Kelly, Elizabeth Murray and Sol LeWitt, among others.
Anne d’Harnoncourt received a BA from Radcliffe College and an MA from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. She was a director of the Henry Luce Foundation, a trustee of the Fabric Workshop and Museum, and a member of the Visiting Committee of the J. Paul Getty Museum, among other affiliations.
She is survived by her husband, Joseph J. Rishel, the Gisela and Dennis Alter Senior Curator of European Painting Before 1900 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Donations in her memory may be made to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, PO Box 7646, Philadelphia PA 19101-7646.
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