Dorothy Kosinski to Conclude Tenure as Vradenburg Director and CEO of The Phillips Collection

By Editorial Team on August 2, 2021
Vradenburg Director and CEO Dorothy Kosinski. Photo credit: Daniel Schwartz.  Image courtesy Phillips Collection.

Dorothy Kosinski, Vradenburg Director and CEO of The Phillips Collection, has announced today that she will conclude her tenure toward the end of 2022. Followed by a transition period, requested by the Board of Trustees. She will mark 15 years of distinguished leadership and be named Director Emerita.

Dr. Kosinski said: “This is a moment of great celebration and achievement for me and the Phillips. This year, 2021, is the centennial of this distinguished institution. We have accomplished extraordinary work that has transformed the Phillips while maintaining its distinctive character as an intimate, experimental space. The Phillips is now more than ever an innovative and nimble organization, a museum poised for future challenges.”

Board Chair Dani Levinas commented: “Dorothy’s impact is profound and far-reaching and sets up the Phillips for a dynamic future. We are particularly grateful for her incredible leadership during the challenging pandemic year.” Bonnie Himmelman, Chair of the Governance Committee, added: “My fellow trustees and I agree that Dorothy is a visionary director who has transformed the Phillips.” The museum has formed a search committee whose chair, trustee Amy Meadows, adds: “It’s exciting how the entire Board is collaboratively engaged in this succession process and the important work of identifying a new director.” A search firm will be selected shortly.

Since the beginning of her tenure in 2008, Dr. Kosinski, who is the museum’s third non-Phillips-family director, has led a campaign to augment the endowment, resulting in a five-fold growth approaching $100M. The Centennial Campaign has raised almost $60 million supporting endowed funds, endowed positions, and key capital enhancements. Dr. Kosinski’s own position is the first endowed chair at the museum, named in honor of the long-serving Board Chair George Vradenburg and his late wife Trish. Vradenburg said: “It is an honor to have my name associated with a terrific leader with whom I had the pleasure to serve for many years.”

Kosinski’s mandate was to revitalize the Phillips’s dialogue with contemporary artists and artistic practice. Among her first major initiatives was hiring two distinguished experts in contemporary art: Dr. Klaus Ottmann and Dr. Vesela Sretenović. Exhibition projects have featured Los Carpinteros, Sandra Cinto, Jae Ko, Wolfgang Laib, Barbara Liotta, Whitfield Lovell, Jennifer Wen Ma, linn meyers, Robert Ryman, Zilia Sánchez, Arlene Shechet, and Alyson Shotz. Kosinski has steered the curatorial focus to feature diverse voices and to address complex artistic and social issues, highlighted by The Warmth of Other Suns: Stories of Global Displacement (2019, organized by the New Museum, New York) and Riffs and Relations: African American Artists and the European Modernist Tradition (2020, guest curated by Dr. Adrienne L. Childs).

During Kosinski’s tenure, the collection has grown from around 2,000 objects to over 5,000 today, with renewed emphasis on contemporary art, photography, artists of color, and women. The centennial publication and exhibition Seeing Differently: The Phillips Collects for a New Century documents this sea change by highlighting new acquisitions by John Akomfrah, McArthur Binion, Simone Leigh, Aimé Mpane, and Renée Stout; quilts by the artists of Gee’s Bend; and ceremonial poles by contemporary Aboriginal artists. Major additions to the collection also include a transformative promised gift of 50 Nabis works assembled by Honorary Chair the late Vicki Sant and her husband Roger. Other groundbreaking acquisitions include a major gift of over 60 German and Danish art works from collector and gallerist Michael Werner. Additionally, major works have come from the Karel Appel Foundation and the Alfonso Ossorio Foundation.

Kosinski began in 2015 to push for greater diversity, equity, access, and inclusion (DEAI) at the museum, hiring a Chief Diversity Officer (the first such position in a US art museum) in 2018, and establishing paid internships and fellowships. Kosinski says: “It is thrilling that we were able to attract a distinguished colleague such as Makeba Clay to join us to lead this crucial and ongoing work toward diversity and equity. Her remarkable work with colleagues in all departments has deeply ingrained DEAI values across the institution.” Clay’s position was recently endowed and is currently the Horning Chair for Diversity, Equity, Access, and Inclusion, a powerful indication of the Phillips Trustees’ commitment to this work.

Additionally, Kosinski has extended the Phillips’s reach beyond its walls. In 2018, the Phillips opened a street-front space at Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus (THEARC) on Mississippi Avenue SE in Ward 8 to provide a forum in which to foster and support the rich creativity of the community and to fashion collaborative programs and initiatives around issues of wellness. The museum added the position of Director for Community Engagement to the staff in 2020.

In 2015 the Phillips announced a major partnership with the University of Maryland in College Park, resulting in the UMD Center for Art & Knowledge at The Phillips Collection and encompassing innumerable co-created initiatives. This is a vibrant and innovative partnership between the private art museum and the large science and technology powerhouse university that pushes innovative boundaries and creates opportunities for up-close-and-personal encounters with international creative talent in both the visual arts and music. The institutions’ collaboratively crafted programs have tackled museums and empathy, artists of conscience, the climate crisis, immigration and displacement, among many other key issues. Kosinski adds: “Collaboration and partnership are key to our success at the Phillips; but especially key is the brilliance and dedication of our staff.”

In addition to her service at the Phillips, Kosinski serves on the boards of directors of the Sherman Fairchild Foundation and the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation. She was appointed by President Obama to the National Council of the NEH, and continues to serve in that role. She is a member of American Alliance of Museums, Association of Art Museum Directors, College Art Association, International Women’s Forum, and numerous other national professional organizations. Kosinski looks forward to completing long-postponed curatorial and scholarly projects and to actively lead major new initiatives about the future of museums in the 21st century.

[Source: Edited Phillips Collection press release]