Ann Philbin, the director of the UCLA Hammer Museum, has announced that she will be stepping down from her position in the fall of 2024 after serving 25 successful years at the helm. Philbin shared her retirement plans with the museum’s board members and staff this week, surprising many who have closely associated her with the museum’s achievements.
While Philbin has not finalized her next step, she intends to take some time off with her wife and tie up loose ends before her departure. Notably, she has stated that she will not be pursuing another museum director job in the future, indicating a desire for a change in her career path.
One of the factors that influenced Philbin’s decision to retire was the recent staffing changes at the museum, including the departure of long-time chief curator Connie Butler. These changes prompted Philbin to reflect on the future direction of the museum and her own role within it.
Under Philbin’s leadership, the Hammer Museum has made significant strides. Their expansion and renovation project, designed by Michael Maltzan Architecture, has recently concluded, providing the museum with an updated and modern look. Additionally, Philbin’s arrival as director marked a turning point for the institution, which had previously faced challenges but held immense potential.
During her tenure, Philbin launched numerous programs and exhibitions that helped establish the Hammer Museum as a nationally significant institution. She envisioned the museum as a socially relevant “town hall,” seeking to expand its programming and engage with a diverse range of audiences. The museum’s strategic location, just off-campus at a prominent intersection in Los Angeles, has given it a unique position within the city’s art scene.
Philbin faced her fair share of challenges during her time as director, including negotiating a deal with the Hammer Foundation and navigating relationships with influential figures in the L.A. art world. However, her exceptional leadership resulted in increased funding and a larger operating budget for the museum. The Hammer Museum has also attracted a significant art community under her guidance.
Despite Philbin’s retirement on the horizon, the museum still has ongoing projects. Plans include breaking down walls to create new galleries and showcasing their growing contemporary art collection. As a new chapter begins for the Hammer Museum, the prospect of generational change brings new possibilities for the institution.
Philbin’s retirement, scheduled for fall 2024, will mark the end of an era for the Hammer Museum. Her departure will undoubtedly leave a lasting impact, and the museum will need to navigate this transition as it looks towards the future.
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