Wexner Center for the Arts Director Sherri Geldin Stepping Down After 25 Years

Wed, Feb 21, 2018

After 25 years as director of the Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University, Sherri Geldin has announced she will leave the helm at the end of December 2018.

Geldin was appointed director in 1993. Under her leadership, the Wexner Center has emerged among the foremost contemporary art venues in the nation, with an ecumenically diverse array of programs in the visual, performing, film, video, and design arts, as well as pioneering education programs.

Geldin’s strong commitment to a sustained and generous artist residency program has positioned the center as a laboratory for contemporary cultural inquiry and production and a veritable beacon for countless emerging, mid-career, and established artists. Among them are Barbara Kruger, Kerry James Marshall, Zoe Leonard, Josiah McElheny, Todd Haynes, Christine Vachon, Chris Marker, Julie Dash, Jonathas de Andrade, Sadie Benning, Bill T. Jones, the Wooster Group, Sam Green, Kronos Quartet, Young Jean Lee, and William Forsythe. (click here)

Geldin notes, “The honor and privilege to direct the Wex for 25 years has been the opportunity of a lifetime, and one I will always cherish. I make this decision with the deep conviction that it’s now the opportune time for the center, the university, and me to make way for a new generation of leadership. I have boundless admiration, respect, and gratitude for the remarkable trustees, staff, and university leaders who have accompanied me over this quarter-century journey. And I remain enormously proud of all we have accomplished together. I’m certain that the center’s founding mandate will continue to propel this institution to flourish as a laboratory and platform for cultural research, production, discovery, experience, and conversation—serving artists and audiences alike.”

Her pursuit of conceptual and creative rigor in the center’s artistic presentations resulted in such major exhibitions as the retrospective Roy Lichtenstein (1995); Julie Taymor: Playing with Fire (1999); Mood River (2002); Part Object, Part Sculpture (2005); Luc Tuymans (2009), jointly organized with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the first museum retrospective of Mark Bradford (2010); and a first-ever exhibition of Annie Leibovitz’s Master Set as well as her Pilgrimage series (2012). For the center’s 25th anniversary in 2014, Geldin co-organized with Robert Storr Transfigurations: Modern Masters from the Wexner Family Collection. In 2016, she brought Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College; and 2017 she oversaw the realization of an ambitious residency project by Sarah Oppenheimer.

Groundbreaking, cross-disciplinary initiatives spanning Wex galleries, stage and screen include Sadie Benning’s Suspended Animation; the immersive, multimedia Andy Warhol: Other Voices, Other Rooms (2008); Via Brasil, a far-reaching exhibition/film series/performance and publication; the theater is a blank page, a pioneering collaboration between Ann Hamilton and theater director Anne Bogart; Landfall, Laurie Anderson’s partnership with Kronos Quartet; and The Great Flood, a joint project by composer Bill Frisell and filmmaker Bill Morrison. Filmmakers visiting the center to introduce screenings or retrospectives of their work include Martin Scorsese, Claire Denis, Milos Forman, Philip Kaufman, Laura Poitras, Spike Lee, Liza Johnson, Jim Jarmusch, Kelly Reichardt, Gus Van Sant, John Waters, Walter Salles, Kevin Jerome Everson, Abbas Kiarostami, Isabella Rossellini, and Charles Burnett, among many others.

Wexner Prize winning artists including Scorsese, Leibovitz, Forsythe, Merce Cunningham, Yvonne Rainer, Renzo Piano, Louise Bourgeois, and Robert Rauschenberg. Each spent time with Wex patrons and with Ohio State students in studios, master classes, and seminars.

“We are fortunate to have had Sherri’s leadership of the center almost since its founding," said Leslie H. Wexner, Chair of the Wexner Center Foundation board, and founder and chairman of L Brands, Inc. "The artistic significance of what she has brought to Ohio, at the Wexner Center, is hard to exaggerate as it never strays from the highest rungs of quality or from the courage required to undertake a full exploration of the creative spirit."

During her tenure, Geldin oversaw a complex $15 million renovation of the center to ensure museum-industry standards for infrastructure, light and climate control; nearly tripled the center’s annual operating budget; substantially increased the roster of Wexner Center Foundation trustees (locally and nationally); and garnered over $30 million in endowed funds for the center, including a $1.5 million grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, making the Wexner Center the first university-based performing arts program to receive major support from that foundation. In 2009, she secured a nearly $800,000 award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for an expansive, cross-disciplinary project focusing on contemporary art in Brazil. In 2013, the board recognized Geldin’s achievements with an endowed fund in her name. In 2015, she led the effort to secure a combined $250,000 from the Andy Warhol Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services to support the program and archive for the center’s Film/Video studio.

“Sherri has elevated the Wexner Center’s position as a physical and symbolic portal to our university,” said Ohio State President Michael V. Drake. “Under her leadership, the center has enriched the campus experience for countless students, faculty, staff and community members — while advancing Ohio State’s international reach and reputation in the arts, education and beyond.”

Geldin served for nine years as a trustee of the Warhol Foundation, including two years as chair. She is a member of the Association of Art Museum Directors and has served on numerous panels and juries across the country, including the American Assembly at Columbia University and the Pew Charitable Trusts. In 2006, Geldin was named Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Cultural Ministry in Paris, an honor created by the French government in 1957 to recognize individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world.

Prior to joining the Wexner Center, Geldin was associate director of The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, playing an integral role in the artistic, educational, and administrative growth of the institution for more than a decade. She also worked closely with Frank Gehry and Arata Isozaki on planning and design for MOCA’s two buildings, and oversaw the organization of several major exhibitions.

The Wexner Center Foundation board and the Office of the Provost together will select a search firm and appoint a search committee comprised of trustees, university representatives, and civic leaders to conduct a national search for the next director well before Geldin steps down at year's end.