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Seattle Art Museum Director Kimerly Rorschach to Retire in 2019

Kimerly Rorschach.


Kimerly Rorschach will retire from her position as the director of the Seattle Art Museum, which she has held for the past seven years. She will leave the museum in the fall of 2019, the day after SAM opens its newly expanded and renovated Seattle Asian Art Museum. In a release, SAM said that its board will now begin a search for Rorschach’s successor.

Rorschach first joined SAM as director in 2012. Since then, she has increased the museum’s endowment by $60 million, overseen the aforementioned $54 million renovation and expansion of the Seattle Asian Art Museum, which adds 12,000 square feet of space, and overseen a $150 million fundraising campaign.

“It has been a tremendous honor to lead the Seattle Art Museum during this exciting period of challenge and growth,” Rorschach said in a statement. “I am so proud of all that we have accomplished, and of our incredible SAM staff, whose dedication has inspired me every step of the way. I am also enormously grateful to SAM’s board of trustees and generous supporters, whose leadership has underpinned our many successes. With the downtown expansion and Olympic Sculpture Park, and now the rebirth of the Seattle Asian Art Museum, SAM’s three sites are poised to serve the community for many years to come.”

Rorschach was also involved in adding works to SAM’s collection. In 2015, the 200-work Virginia and Bagley Wright Collection, one of the most notable private collections in the Northwest, was added to SAM’s holdings. As part of the acquisition, the museum received pieces by Franz Kline, Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol, Robert Gober, Donald Judd, and many more. Around that same time, Rorschach helped the museum acquire the Sam and Gladys Rubinstein Collection, which includes paintings by František Kupka, Robert Delaunay, and Alexej von Jawlensky, among others.

Prior to joining SAM, Rorschach served as the founding director of Duke University’s Nasher Museum of Art in Durham, North Carolina—a position she held from 2005 to 2012. Before heading up the Nasher, she was director of the the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art and had held curatorial positions at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia. She was also previously the president of the Association of Art Museum Directors.

“SAM has flourished under Kim’s leadership,” Winnie Stratton, the president of SAM’s board, said in a statement. “Her myriad of duties aside, she has been the number one champion for the museum. Her contribution to fundraising has been transformative, including raising nearly $125 million towards the museum’s current $150 million campaign to boost SAM’s endowment, renovate the Seattle Asian Art Museum, and expand programming across all three sites. Collegial, disciplined, and community-focused, Kim has been a great mentor and colleague. Her passion, drive, and desire to foster new connections between art, culture, and the community, will be greatly missed.”

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