Former Brooklyn Museum Director Arnold Lehman Joins Phillips Auction House

Arnold Lehman at the Brooklyn Artists Ball. Photo: Liz Ligon, courtesy the Brooklyn Museum.

Arnold Lehman, who was director of the Brooklyn Museum for 17 years, is joining New York’s Phillips auction house as senior advisor to Edward Dolman, chairman and CEO. In his new post, where he’ll start in September, he’ll advise on the global expansion of the Phillips brand and head up a program of support for museum exhibitions.

Lehman oversaw a period of outreach for the Brooklyn Museum, doubling annual attendance over the course of his tenure. He also left the institution on more secure financial footing than when he found it, beefing up its endowment from $55 million in 1997 to $123 million in 2014.

Under Lehman, the museum instituted its popular First Saturdays program, with a lively schedule of concerts and parties, and he supervised construction of the new entryway and plaza, by Polshek Partnership (now Ennead Architects). Lehman announced his resignation from the museum in the fall of 2014 and stepped down this summer.

Lehman follows a procession of museum VIPs who have headed to auction houses, including Lisa Dennison, Charles S. Moffett, and Derek Gillman.

Dolman is a relative newcomer at Phillips himself, and has taken bold steps to expand and invigorate the house, which is known for sales of younger contemporary artists.

He took the reins in July 2014 after three years in Qatar, serving as director of the office of Sheikha Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, chairperson of the Qatar Museums Authority. A few months later, the company announced plans to build a new auction house and exhibition space in London, followed, just days later, by news that Phillips planned to erect a salesroom in Hong Kong.

Before taking over at the Brooklyn Museum, Lehman earned a PhD from Yale University and was director of the Baltimore Museum of Art while teaching at Johns Hopkins University. He’s currently a visiting fellow at the Ford Foundation, advising on issues of social justice, creativity, and freedom of expression, as well as working to advance museum professionals of color.

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