Cultural Comings and Goings: Eleanor Nairne Joins the Philadelphia Museum of Art and More

Eleanor Nairne and Shelley Selim are among the insiders stepping into new roles.

From the retirement of longtime Frick director Ian Wardropper to the appointment of Shelley Selim in a newly created curatorial position at the Detroit Institute of Arts, here are some of the most notable role changes recently announced across the arts and culture spheres.

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The Philadelphia Museum of Art appoints Eleanor Nairne as head of modern and contemporary art

Black and white photograph of woman wearing blazer
Eleanor Nairne will join the PMA this month. Courtesy PMA

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is hiring a new curatorial leader in the form of Eleanor Nairne. Currently a senior curator at London’s Barbican Art Gallery, Nairne will join the museum this month as head of its department of modern and contemporary art.

“Having the opportunity to connect Philadelphia to international audiences through the museum’s incredible collection and program is a wonderful opportunity,” said Nairne in a statement, adding that she is “delighted” to take on her new position at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA).

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Throughout her eight-year tenure at the Barbican, she curated exhibitions like 2023’s “Alice Neel: Hot Off the Griddle” and 2022’s “Soheila Sokhanvari: Rebel Rebel.” She also previously worked as a guest curator in 2021 for Acquavella Galleries’ show “Eva Hesse/Hannah Wilke: Erotic Abstraction,” the first exhibition to pair work from the two sculptors. And while acting as curator of the Tate’s Artangel Collection from 2011 to 2015, she organized around 30 exhibitions collectively attracting more than 900,000 visitors.

“Eleanor’s global background and limitless curiosity are what the PMA needs as it moves into its future,” said Sasha Suda, director and CEO of the museum, in a statement. In addition to announcing Nairne’s appointment, the PMA additionally revealed a newly established endowment for a full-time curator in the modern and contemporary art department funded by trustees Lisa Roberts and David Seltzer.

Frick Collection director Ian Wardropper to retire in 2025

Man wearing blue jacket and orange scarf
Ian Wardropper is set to step down next year. Photo Richard Renaldi/Courtesy Frick

As the Frick Collection nears the reopening of its renovated Gilded Age home, its longtime director Ian Wardropper is planning on stepping down. Wardropper, who has headed the institution since 2011, will retire in 2025 after a 50-year-long career in the museum world.

The director’s contributions to the Frick will be celebrated at a fall 2024 gala preceding its reopening at the end of the year. In addition to overseeing the $290 capital campaign for the Frick’s renovation and its temporary residency at the Frick Madison, Wardropper’s 14-year tenure has included increasing the institution’s membership program and expanding its Board of Trustees from 18 to 24 seats.

He has additionally seen the museum through countless acquisitions, exhibitions, and an expansion of its discounted and free admission programs. Online initiatives such as “Cocktails with a Curator,” a weekly video series launched during the Covid-19 pandemic, were introduced under his leadership.

Before joining the Frick, Wardropper worked for a decade at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and held positions like chairman of the European sculpture and decorative arts department. He also served for 20 years as a curator at the Art Institute of Chicago.

“From the first strategic plan developed together with the Frick’s dedicated Trustees and talented staff, we identified our aspirations and priorities and committed to the values and program that make the Frick unique,” said Wardropper in a statement, adding that he plans to work on scholarly projects following his retirement. The museum’s Board of Trustees is currently working with an executive search firm to find his replacement.

Aaron Seeto steps down as head of Museum MACAN

Man wearing glasses and blazer sits in front of painting
Aaron Seeto pictured in November 2017. BAY ISMOYO/AFP via Getty Images

Yet another outgoing director in the art world is Aaron Seeto, who has headed Jakarta’s Museum MACAN since its 2017 opening. He will step down from the privately-owned institution on January 31 with plans to work outside of Asia.

Before joining MACAN as its inaugural leader, Seeto led a curatorial team under the Queensland Art Gallery’s Gallery of Modern Art that organized the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in 2015, a show that brought together more than 80 artists and collectives. Between 2007 and 2015, he also worked as director of Sydney’s 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art.

Seeto has overseen more than 20 exhibitions at MACAN, including solo shows from the likes of Yayoi Kusama, Xu Bing and Lee Mingwei. “I’ve had an extraordinary seven years with MACAN,” said Seeto in a statement reported by ArtReview, adding that “it was up to our creative vision to chart the course of what kind of role MACAN would take in Indonesia and how we could encourage important artistic dialogues between our region and the rest of the world.”

Fenessa Adikoesoemo, chairwoman of the Museum MACAN Foundation, will act as chief spokesperson for the museum while it searches for Seeto’s replacement.

Shelley Selim joins the Detroit Institute of Arts in a newly created curatorial position

Woman wearing white shirt posing in front of white background
Shelley Selim will begin her new position this month. Courtesy Detroit Institute of Arts

Over at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Shelley Selim is set to take on a newly created curatorial position focused on automotive, industrial and decorative design. Selim will come to the institution from the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, where she has worked as a curator of design and decorative arts since 2016.

Due to Detroit’s longstanding connection to the nation’s automotive industry, “it’s only fitting that the museum establishes a curatorial position deeply connected with the city’s history,” said Jill Shaw, head of the Detroit Institute of Art’s (DIA) department of modern and contemporary art, in a statement.

SEE ALSO: ‘In the Right Place’ at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

In her new role, Selim will focus on curating projects and acquiring works that showcase the city’s role in transportation design and artistry. She will also be responsible for shining a light on works related to decorative and industrial design and aiding the museum in its educational work and school programs. Her position is supported by the Mort and Brigitte Harris Foundation, a Chicago-based organization that has long been a prominent patron of the DIA.

At the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Selim was responsible for numerous exhibitions focused on modern and contemporary art and design. She has also previously worked as an assistant curator at the Cranbrook Art Museum in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and as a curatorial assistant at New York’s Museum of Arts and Design.

Cultural Comings and Goings: Eleanor Nairne Joins the Philadelphia Museum of Art and More