Press Release

Amy Sadao Steps Down as Director of Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA
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After more than seven years, Amy Sadao, Daniel W. Dietrich II Director of the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, announces that she is stepping down to pursue new opportunities and personal projects. Under Sadao’s leadership, ICA broadened its critically acclaimed exhibition and publications program, increased attendance and public engagement, and expanded the museum’s digital impact and reach.

“It has been a privilege to work alongside ICA’s Board of Overseers and a spectacularly talented staff. Together, we extended ICA’s bold history as a place to explore the unknown, the poetic, and presented contemporary artists’ affective and political contributions as an admission-free kunsthalle,” said Sadao. “I created and exceeded a strategic plan focused on curatorial excellence, community partnerships, and visitors’ and artists’ experience. I was guided by questions of what a feminist, anti-racist, queer-and trans-embracing contemporary museum would look, feel, and act like. It’s only right that a new director creates the next strategic plan. I am excited to experience the next iteration of ICA. My goals now include a book project on art and community that will examine the efforts to redefine the evolving roles and responsibilities of museums across the country.”

Penn’s Provost Wendell Pritchett has named John McInerney as Interim Director at the ICA. McInerney is currently Executive Director of Penn’s Sachs Program for Arts Innovation, and will continue in that role as he also serves as the ICA’s Interim Director.

Under Sadao’s leadership, ICA presented 51 critically acclaimed exhibitions of underrepresented and overlooked artists. Sadao shepherded 35 publications, among them the award-winning titles Barbara Kasten: Stages and Rodney McMillian. Other key initiatives during her tenure include the development of a new Department of Public Engagement and expansion of ICA’s digital impact and reach. 

“We wish Amy the best in her next steps,” Vice Provost for Faculty Anita Allen said. Allen will chair the Provost’s Advisory Committee for the Selection of the ICA Director. Beginning work this month, the Advisory Selection Committee is composed of faculty scholars and artists, staff, alumni, and representation from the ICA Board of Overseers, including: David Hartt, MFA, Assistant Professor of Fine Arts, Stuart Weitzman School of Design; Sharon Hayes, MFA, Associate Professor of Fine Arts, Stuart Weitzman School of Design; Michael Leja, Ph.D., James and Nan Wagner Professor of History of Art; Chair, Department of History of Art, School of Arts and Sciences; Aaron Levy, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer, Departments of English and Art History, School of Arts and Sciences, Executive Director and Senior Curator, Slought Foundation; Kenneth Lum, MFA, Marilyn Jordan Taylor Presidential Professor of Fine Arts; Chair, Department of Fine Arts, Stuart Weitzman School of Design; Lynn Marsden-Atlass, MA, University Curator and Executive Director, Arthur Ross Gallery; Katherine Sachs, Emeritus ICA Board of Overseers, Emeritus Trustee of the University of Pennsylvania; David Simon, MBA, Managing Director and Partner at Littlejohn & Co, Chair, ICA Board of Overseers; Julian Siggers, Ph.D., Williams Director, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology; and Bryan Verona, MBA, Board of Overseers, Founder, President, and Co-Portfolio Manager, Vanadium Capital Management, LLC. Added Allen, “Penn is fortunate to have retained Russell Reynolds to assist with the search, guided by Laurie Nash and Michael Singleton.”

The Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania is a non-collecting institution presenting exhibitions at the forefront of contemporary practice and culture that challenge audiences to think in new ways. Since its founding in 1963, ICA has served as a laboratory for the new, introducing and supporting the production of urgent and important contemporary art, beginning with ICA’s inaugural show of paintings by Abstract Expressionist Clyfford Still, followed by the first museum show of works by Andy Warhol in 1965. Throughout its history, ICA has been instrumental in identifying and developing many promising artists before they attained prominence within the international art world, some of whom include Karen Kilimnik, Barry Le Va, Glenn Ligon, Robert Mapplethorpe, Agnes Martin, Pepón Osorio, Tavares Strachan, and Cy Twombly. Recently ICA has forged partnerships with a broad range of cultural organizations, from MCA Chicago and MOCA LA, to Blackstar Film Festival, Ars Nova, and the Black and Brown Workers Coalition and has invited guest curators to offer new perspectives at the ICA—Hilton Als, Kara Walker, and Nayland Blake among them.

ICA’s upcoming fall program, which opens to the public on September 13, includes Michelle Lopez: Ballast & Barricades, the first major institutional exhibition of this Philadelphia-based artist that features her most ambitious work to date; Colored People Time: Banal Presents, the final chapter in the ground-breaking three-part exhibition Colored People Time, which aims to develop new discourse around race, history, and time through the lens of the present day; and arms ache avid aeon: Nancy Brooks Brody / Joy Episalla / Zoe Leonard / Carrie Yamaoka: fierce pussy amplified, an exhibition illuminating the distinct artistic practices of the four individual members of the collective, who formed in New York City in the 1990s at the height of the AIDS crisis. 

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