Peabody Essex Museum names Brian Kennedy director & CEO

Brian Kennedy. Peabody Essex Museum image

SALEM, Mass. — The Peabody Essex Museum announced today that Brian Kennedy will become its new executive director and CEO.

Presently serving as the president, director and CEO of the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio, Kennedy will assume his new role as the next Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo executive director and CEO at PEM on July 15. Kennedy takes the helm at a momentous juncture in PEM’s history as it prepares to open a new, 40,000-square-foot wing and undertakes a complete reinstallation of its galleries as part of the museum’s landmark $650M Connect Campaign.

The museum initiated a hiring search in October 2018 following the retirement announcement of Dan Monroe, PEM’s executive director and CEO for the last 25 years.

“Brian Kennedy brings global perspective and experience to PEM. He has a passion for art and culture, and for the powerful effect of art experiences on individuals and communities,” said Rob Shapiro, president of PEM’s board of trustees.

Born in Dublin, Kennedy has held senior leadership positions at art museums around the world, including posts in Ireland, Australia and the United States. At the Toledo Museum of Art since 2010, Kennedy has overseen one of America’s great art collections and strengthened the museum through significant acquisitions, creative programming and a strategic plan to more deeply integrate the museum into the community.

“It is a tremendous honor and privilege to uphold the museum’s legacy, to advance its mission, to further its impact, and to ensure that relevant, invigorating museum experiences continue to connect us to one another,” said Kennedy. “Museums help us to make meaning of ourselves, our lives, our community, and the wider world by giving us time and space to experience wonder, think, feel, reflect, and create. I look forward to ensuring PEM continues to be a vital resource, a hub of innovation, and a force of good in the world for years to come.”

Kennedy studied art history and history at University College in Dublin, earning bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. He spent eight years as assistant director of the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin (1989-1997) and seven years as director of the National Gallery of Australia (1997-2004) in Canberra. From 2005-2010, he was director of Dartmouth College’s Hood Museum of Art in Hanover, New Hampshire, which has one of the largest and finest art collections at an American college or university. Kennedy has in-depth experience leading museum campaign, expansion and refurbishment projects.

“The Toledo Museum of Art has been profoundly transformed under Kennedy’s leadership,” said Cynthia B. Thompson, TMA board chair. “We wish him all the best in his new position at PEM and thank him deeply for contributions to TMA over the years. PEM is fortunate to have him as their new director.”

Kennedy is also a respected art historian, curator and author. He has written six books, most recently on the artists Sean Scully and Frank Stella.