The Saint Louis Art Museum has named Min Jung Kim its new Barbara B. Taylor Director, succeeding retiring Director Brent R. Benjamin. The selection follows an extensive search, guided by recommendations of a months-long listening project that included input from the museum, St. Louis community and art institution leaders on the attributes needed to guide the museum into its next era.
“For more than a century, the Saint Louis Art Museum has been an integral thread in the cultural fabric of our community, earning international acclaim and respect,” said Charles Lowenhaupt, president of the Saint Louis Art Museum Board of Commissioners. “From the counsel we received through our listening project, our museum—featuring art from all times and cultures—can serve as a forum to help people of all backgrounds understand, discuss and address our cultural and historical differences. In today’s world, this is a critical role not only for our museum, but also for art museums across the globe.”
Lowenhaupt continued, “In Min Jung Kim we have found a director who is uniquely qualified to build on our rich tradition, provide a world view of art and culture, and enhance the relationship between our institution and our community in this next era for the Saint Louis Art Museum.”
Kim brings nearly 30 years of experience to her new role, including more than a decade at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, where she was director of content alliances, managing the collaboration among the Guggenheim; the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia; and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.
As deputy director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University, she was in charge of implementing the completion of the new Broad MSU, designed by Zaha Hadid, which opened in 2014.
In her current position as director and CEO of the New Britain Museum of American Art—one of the oldest museums of American Art in the country—Kim enhanced the museum profile through exhibitions and collection development designed to expand the definition of American Art and reflect greater diversity while strengthening community engagement and collaborative partnerships.
Kim graduated from Wheaton College and holds a master’s degree in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art at the University of London.
She was recently appointed chairman of the Connecticut Arts Council by Gov. Ned Lamont and serves on the boards of Hartford Healthcare; the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving; the New England Foundation for the Arts and the American Foundation for the Courtauld Institute of Art, where she was past president. Kim was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea.
Kim will be the 11th director of the Saint Louis Art Museum and the first woman to lead the 142-year-old institution.
“The Saint Louis Art Museum is one of the most prestigious museums in the country and I am deeply honored to be chosen to lead this great institution,” Kim said. “It has a premier collection, a long and distinguished history, and a terrific and experienced staff.
“I want to express my gratitude to the search committee and the Board of Commissioners for putting their faith in me, and to Brent Benjamin for passing on a legacy of success through his visionary leadership,” she said. “I am excited to build upon the museum’s strong foundational base, get to know and partner with the diverse communities of St. Louis, and work with the talented team of the Saint Louis Art Museum in taking the institution to even greater heights.”
The selection committee’s focus on the future was a result of a four-month listening project. A board-appointed task force conducted interviews and focus-group discussions with more than 200 individuals from across St. Louis and the art field. The process identified the need for a director who will steward and champion the museum and St. Louis, become an active partner in the region’s dynamic art community and serve as an architect for change, with a particular focus on advancing diverse global and cultural discourse in our community, Lowenhaupt said.
“Thanks to Brent Benjamin’s strong and impactful leadership over 20 years, the museum is well positioned to have an active and impactful role in our community and the arts,” Lowenhaupt said. “Min Jung’s background, passion and energy will further advance our museum’s role as an important bridge between this great institution, our community and the world in which we live.”
During his 22-year tenure, Benjamin led a world-class expansion on Art Hill; conducted a record-setting capital campaign; oversaw the growth of the museum’s collection through strategic acquisitions and gifts of entire collections; championed an innovative fellowship program to increase the number of minority professionals active in the arts and led a major diversity and inclusion initiative. He retires June 30.
“Min Jung is an excellent choice to lead the Saint Louis Art Museum,” Benjamin said. “She is known and respected as an inspirational and creative thought leader in the museum world. In retirement, I will continue to be an ardent supporter of Min Jung, the Art Museum and the St. Louis community.”
The Art Museum’s Board of Commissioners approved Kim’s appointment on Monday, following a global search chaired by commission member Keith Williamson. Other commission members who served on the search committee included Meredith Holbrook, Thomas Carnahan, Ashley Kemper, Kent Kreh, David Obedin, Emily Pulitzer, Donald Suggs and Barbara B. Taylor, with Lowenhaupt serving as an ex-officio member.
Following Benjamin’s retirement on July 1, Carolyn J. Schmidt, the museum’s deputy director and controller, will serve as interim director until Kim starts as director later this summer.
For more information, call 314.721.0072 or visit slam.org