Cultural Comings and Goings: Christie’s Global President Steps Down and More

Ann Philbin, Jussi Pylkkänen and Edwaard Liang are among the art insiders moving into new roles.

From the retirement of one of Los Angeles’ most renowned museum heads to the appointment of a ballet company’s fourth-ever director, here are some of the most notable role changes recently announced across the arts and culture spheres.

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Jussi Pylkkänen leaves Christie’s to work independently

Auctioneer at platform, large print of Marilyn Monroe behind him
Jussi Pylkkänen selling Andy Warhol’s Shot Sage Blue Marilyn in May of 2022. Courtesy Christie's

Jussi Pylkkänen will step down as Global President of Christie's after thirty-eight years with the auction house. One of the most well-known auctioneers in the art world, Pylkkänen plans to work as an independent advisor. “The art market continues to evolve and the extraordinary influx of buyers at the top of the market now offers me a unique opportunity to share my experience with a new generation of collectors who are keen to buy major works of art both privately and at auction,” he said in a statement.

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Pylkkänen has been the figurehead for some of the auction house’s most notable sales—in 2017, he presided over the sale of Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, which set a record for the most valuable work of art when it sold for $450.3 million. Five years later, he auctioned off Andy Warhol’s Shot Sage Blue Marilyn for $195 million to gallerist Larry Gagosian, making the work the most expensive 20th-century painting.

Over two decades at the rostrum, he has been the auctioneer for the sale of art collections owned by Elizabeth Taylor, Peggy and David Rockefeller and Paul Allen. The latter became the most expensive single-owner collection sold at auction when it realized $1.6 billion in 2022. Pylkkänen has additionally overseen numerous charity auctions, such as a 2013 Christie’s sale organized by Leonardo DiCaprio, where the auctioneer joked with the actor by pretending to mistake DiCaprio’s waving to friends as bids.

A specialist in 20th-century art, Pylkkänen held positions as Christie’s director of impressionist and modern art and director of Christie’s in Europe, the Middle East and Russia before he was appointed Global President in 2014. His final appearances as auctioneer will take place on Nov. 9 in New York and Dec. 7 in London at the auction house’s 20th Century Evening and Old Masters Evening Sale auctions.

Edwaard Liang becomes artistic director of the Washington Ballet

Black and white portrait of man in black button down
Edwaard Liang will head the Washington Ballet. Chiun-Kai Shih

After eleven seasons as artistic director of BalletMet in Columbus, Ohio, Edwaard Liang will leave the dance company to become the first person of color to head the Washington Ballet. Liang has worked with the organization before, having choreographed five works for the ballet between 2008 and 2016.

While at BalletMet, his leadership helped the company nearly double in size alongside expansions of its ballet school and supported the launch of a major capital campaign. Liang, who was born in Taiwan and grew up in California, began his career as a dancer with the New York City Ballet and the Nederlands Dans Theater, later turning to choreography. In addition to winning an Emmy for the 2018 short dance film Vaulted, Laing’s choreography has been performed by the New York City Ballet, the San Francisco Ballet and other dance companies.

Succeeding Julie Kent, who announced her plans to step down as the Washington Ballet’s artistic director last year, Liang will be responsible for overseeing the ballet company’s creative vision, training studio, ballet school and community engagement programs. “Edwaard’s commitment to shaping the future of ballet perfectly aligns with our ambitions as a dynamic, diverse mid-sized ballet company with an outsized impact in our community and in the ballet world,” said Jean-Marie Fernandez, chair of the organization’s board of directors, in a statement.

Ann Philbin to step down as director of the Hammer Museum

Woman in patterned suit speaking at podium
Ann Philbin will retire in Nov. of 2024. Getty Images for Hammer Museum

It’s the end of an era for the Hammer Museum at the University of California, Los Angeles. Ann Philbin, its director for the past twenty-five years, will retire next year after revolutionizing the institution’s role in Los Angeles.  “When the history of the Hammer Museum is written, there will be a clear line drawn—before Annie Philbin, and after Annie Philbin,” said Marcy Carsey, chair of the museum’s board of directors, in a statement.

During her tenure, which Philbin described as “the privilege of a lifetime,” she oversaw numerous new initiatives like the introduction of the Hammer Projects, a series of exhibitions and installations from emerging artists. Philbin additionally launched its biennial exhibition Made in L.A., organized loan exhibitions and retrospectives and curated several shows, including the 2003 Lee Bontecou: A Retrospective and 2000 Lee Mullican: Drawings.

The past quarter century has seen the museum’s programs double and its collection expand to more than 50,000 objects. The Hammer Museum also underwent major renovations with Philbin, with an addition of 40,000 square feet of galleries, administrative offices and public spaces opening in spring 2023.

Before joining the museum in 1999, Philbin directed New York’s Drawing Center for nearly a decade, where she emphasized emerging artists and large-scale public exhibitions. She is currently a board member of both LA28, which is organizing the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the Foundation for Arts Initiatives. And in 2020, she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Patton Hindle joins Artadia as its new director

Woman in black tank top and jeans
Patton Hindle started her new position in October. Yekaterina Gyadu

Artadia, a nonprofit grantmaker connecting artists, curators and patrons, is getting an executive director in the form of Patton Hindle. Coming from Kickstarter, a crowdfunding startup for artists, Hindle assumed the new position earlier this month.

Since its founding in 1999, Artadia, which grants unrestricted awards, has given more than $6 million in funds to nearly 400 artists. Hindle’s role will prioritize the importance of artist communities. “Over the last few years we watched artists disperse broadly across the country and invest themselves in their localities,” said Hindle, who will succeed former director Carolyn Ramo, in a statement. “Artadia is uniquely positioned to support artists’ practices as they grow in community and to meet them where they live.”

Hindle, who also serves as an advisor for artist-centered organizations like the Wide Awakes and Mellon Foundation, spent six years at Kickstarter. As head of its first social impact program, she secured nearly $1.2 million to fund the initiative, which supported nearly 700 creators. While working as Kickstarter’s head of arts, she oversaw the flow of $175 million to artists and cultural organizations. “Traditional funding models continue to support a similar group of artists year after year, but Kickstarter allows for creative independence,” Hindle told Observer in 2019 while discussing the crowdfunding organization. “If you have an idea, mobilize your community and you can make it happen.”

Cultural Comings and Goings: Christie’s Global President Steps Down and More