Anne d’Harnoncourt dead at 64

Anne d'Harnoncourt, speaking at the installation of the Louise Bourgeoise spider sculpture at the PMA last year.
Anne d’Harnoncourt, speaking at the installation of the Louise Bourgeoise spider sculpture at the PMA last year.

We’ve always admired Anne d’Harnoncourt, Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Director and CEO, a woman of grace and elegance, charming and welcoming — even as she wielded enormous power. We didn’t know her personally but every time we saw her, even when she was protesting in Love Park the proposed deep cuts to the city’s arts budget under John Street, we were impressed and amazed at her unflappable leadership.

Over the last 10 years the museum has broadened its program and its holdings in exciting ways that we never could have predicted. The Tesoros show and the Notations series were surprises and cemented the museum’s place as a tastemaker in the world of international art. Great shows about William H. Johnson and Beauford Delaney and outsider art were of local, international and multi-cultural interest and clearly not lip service to someone’s political agenda. These were all serious art historical examinations with a commitment to expanding the museum beyond the western canon.

We love that d’Harnoncourt opened the Perelman Building giving some breaathing room to an institution that had outgrown its floorplan years before. We love the plan for new contemporary galleries to be designed by Frank Gehry. And we think it’s urgent that d’Harnoncourt’s plans and vision for the museum be carried forward.


The museum is the diamond in the city’s arts programs, and Anne d’Harnoncourt was the diamond in the museum. She will be missed.

Our hearts go out to everyone we know at the museum and in the museum community. We feel sad and shocked.  It’s hard to imagine the museum without her.

Read our earlier post.