Richard Armstrong, who has led the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation since 2008, will step down in 2023 after more than fourteen years on the job. Armstrong is expected to assist the board of the foundation—which oversees the flagship Guggenheim Museum in New York as well as outposts in Bilbao and Venice and a forthcoming branch in Abu Dhabi—in finding a successor. He did not cite a reason for his departure, which he first made public in a July 8 interview with the Financial Times.
Armstrong, who arrived at the Guggenheim after a dozen years helming Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Art, succeeded Thomas Krens in the role of director. His tenure was marked by high highs and low lows, the former characterized by the tremendous success of the institution in attracting visitors and the latter by turmoil over the treatment of workers. Under Armstrong’s leadership, the museum saw its attendance more than double, thanks in large part to programming that included exhibitions by Hilma af Klint, Alberto Burri, On Kawara, Agnes Martin, and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy as well as wide-ranging survey of the work of the German Zero artists. The Guggenheim also continued its drive to increase its international presence with the construction of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, which is slated to open in 2025 following numerous delays and accusations that laborers on the project were poorly paid. Workers at the New York museum fought successfully to unionize during Armstrong’s tenure, which also saw accusations of institutional racism within the Guggenheim. In a highly publicized incident, guest curator Chaédria LaBouvier accused deputy director and chief curator Nancy Spector of attempting to “erase” her participation in a landmark exhibition of the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat that the former had brought to the museum. Spector was cleared of wrongdoing but stepped down after thirty-four years with the institution; her successor, Naomi Beckwith, is the first Black woman to lead the museum. The Guggenheim additionally established an initiative aimed at increasing diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion (DEAI), becoming one of the first major US arts institutions to do so. Earlier this year, it removed the Sackler name from its education center over family members’ connections to the national opioid crisis.
“I’ve had the opportunity to lead efforts that ensure solid footing and deliver a robust global cultural program for the Guggenheim,” noted Armstrong in a statement. “I’m proud of what we have accomplished including: caring for the staff, embracing principles around DEAI and sustainability, defining our brand for the future, and coming through the pandemic with financial health.”