The Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles announced that Elsa Longhauser will step down from her post as executive director in 2019. She has been at the institution for 18 years, and among her accomplishments is leading its transition from the Santa Monica Museum of Art to the ICA LA, as it’s known now. For the move, Longhauser launched a $5 million capital campaign to secure its new home in Downtown L.A., which was renovated by wHY, as well as rebranding designed by artist Mark Bradford.
When the institution reopened in September 2017, it did so with a retrospective of work by Martin Ramírez, organized by Longhauser as part of the Getty Foundation’s city-wide exhibition initiative Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA. The show was one of the highlights of the series’ 70-plus shows across Southern California.
“Elsa is a visionary leader with a master critical eye, and much beloved by artists,” ICA board president Laura Donnelley said in a statement. “She is a true alchemist, bringing art and community together in many manifestations.”
Longhauser curated the first institutional solo show of Ramírez, a self-taught artist, at her previous job when she was the director of the Galleries at Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia, from 1983 until 2000. She also organized a solo show of Marlene Dumas, Valie Export, Thomas Hirschhorn, and Ray Johnson there.
Longhauser moved to California in 2000 to helm the Santa Monica Museum of Art and presented a range of contemporary art exhibitions organized by her and outside curators, among them Thelma Golden (for “Freestyle” in 2001), Lynne Cooke (“Alfred Jensen: Concordance,” 2003), and Walter Hopps (“George Herms: Hot Set,” 2005). Among the shows organized by Longhauser were a seminal 2008 exhibition of Michael Asher and others for Mary Kelly and Al Taylor.