Peabody Essex Museum Names Brian Kennedy as Executive Director and CEO

  • SALEM, Massachusetts
  • /
  • March 11, 2019

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Brian Kennedy

The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) announced today that Brian Kennedy will become the next Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Executive Director and CEO.

Presently serving as the President, Director, and CEO of the Toledo Museum of Art (TMA) in Ohio, Kennedy will assume his new role at PEM on July 15, 2019. Kennedy takes the helm at a momentous juncture in PEM’s history as it prepares to open a new, 40,000-square-foot wing and undertakes a complete reinstallation of its galleries as part of the museum’s landmark $650M Connect Campaign.

The museum initiated a hiring search in October 2018 following the retirement announcement of Dan Monroe, PEM’s Executive Director and CEO for the last 25 years.

“Brian Kennedy brings global perspective and experience to PEM. He has a passion for art and culture, and for the powerful effect of art experiences on individuals and communities,” says Rob Shapiro, President of PEM’s Board of Trustees. “PEM’s mission is to celebrate outstanding artistic and cultural creativity; and PEM strives to create experiences that transform people’s lives by broadening their perspectives, attitudes and knowledge of themselves and the wider world. Brian and PEM are a perfect match at this important and exciting moment. With creative spirit, clear goals, and warmth of manner, Brian will inspire the entire team at PEM in the museum’s next stage of development. It is a joy to welcome Brian and his wife, Mary.”

Born in Dublin, Kennedy has held senior leadership positions at art museums around the world, including posts in Ireland, Australia, and the United States. Since 2010, Kennedy has served as the TMA’s President, Director, and CEO. He has overseen one of America’s great art collections and strengthened the museum through significant acquisitions, creative programing, and a holistic strategic plan to more deeply integrate the museum into the community.

Kennedy has an abiding interest in perception, visual literacy, and how humans can become as conversant in the visual realm as we are in the textual realm: possessing the ability to read, understand, and write visual language. His interests in this area powerfully align with PEM’s international leadership in tapping the neurosciences to help design more powerful visual experiences.

“It is a tremendous honor and privilege to uphold the museum’s legacy, to advance its mission, to further its impact, and to ensure that relevant, invigorating museum experiences continue to connect us to one another,” says Kennedy. “Museums help us to make meaning of ourselves, our lives, our community, and the wider world by giving us time and space to experience wonder, think, feel, reflect, and create. I look forward to ensuring PEM continues to be a vital resource, a hub of innovation, and a force of good in the world for years to come.”

PEM’s mission, operating principles, and financial model combine to make it one of the most dynamic and progressive art museums in the nation. Fresh interpretive strategies, creative risk-taking, innovative exhibitions design, award-winning publications and programs, and service to large local, regional, national, and international audiences have all become hallmarks of the PEM experience, identity, and operating model.

“Kennedy is a visionary executive who prioritizes creativity, values innovation, and fosters excellence,” says Sam Byrne, Chair of PEM’s Board of Trustees. “He embodies the guiding spirit, energy, and drive of PEM and we are thrilled to see him build upon the tremendous legacy of Dan Monroe and his transformative leadership.” 

Kennedy studied art history and history at University College in Dublin, earning bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. He spent eight years as assistant director of the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin (1989-1997) and seven years as director of the National Gallery of Australia (1997-2004) in Canberra. From 2005-2010, he was director of Dartmouth College’s Hood Museum of Art in Hanover, New Hampshire, which has one of the largest and finest art collections at an American college or university. Kennedy has in-depth experience leading museum campaign, expansion, and refurbishment projects.

“The Toledo Museum of Art has been profoundly transformed under Kennedy’s leadership,” said Cynthia B. Thompson, TMA board chair. “We wish him all the best in his new position at PEM and thank him deeply for contributions to TMA over the years. PEM is fortunate to have him as their new director.”

Kennedy is also a respected art historian, curator and author. He has written six books, most recently on the artists Sean Scully and Frank Stella. He is a past chair of the Irish Association of Art Historians (1996-97) and of the Council of Australian Art Museum Directors (2001-03). He was a trustee and treasurer of the Association of Art Museum Directors (2013-2016), and is peer reviewer for the American Association of Museums, and a member of the International Association of Art Critics.

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