Hoping to Move Past a Turbulent Chapter, the Philadelphia Museum of Art Has Named a Canadian Rising Star as Its New Director

A board leader says Suda is “the leader we need at this transformational moment.”

Sasha Suda was named as the new director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art has named Sasha Suda as its new leader after a volatile few years at the museum, which saw a sexual harassment scandal and a contentious unionization campaign.

Suda, 41, is currently director and chief executive of the National Gallery of Canada, in Ottawa, Ontario. The news was first reported in the New York Times.

Suda will start the role in September, making her the latest in a wave of female leaders appointed to high-level museum positions in the past year, along with Katherine Fleming at the Getty Trust and Johanna Burton at MoCA Los Angeles.

“Suda brings new-generation leadership to the PMA, which as one of the nation’s largest art museums is renowned for its exceptional and broad-ranging collection,” read a statement from the museum, adding that she is “an accomplished director, curator, and community builder.”

As director at the National Gallery of Canada, Suda broadened the museum’s relevance to diverse audiences across Canada, the museum statement noted.

Suda’s arrival will “mark a new era of growth and civic engagement for the museum,” said board chair Leslie Anne Miller. “Sasha is the leader we need at this transformational moment.”

Suda earned her Ph.D. from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University and began her career at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She later worked at the Art Gallery of Ontario as a curator of European art before taking the helm.

Suda replaces Timothy Rub, the longtime director who stepped down in January after 13 years in the position, and who apologized for several missteps during his tenure. As noted in the Times, in 2018, a museum staffer and education manager named Joshua Helmer resigned after several women reported that he had “made advances toward them in the workplace.”

A museum representative told the Times that Helmer had “separated” from the institution in 2018 and that it could not discuss the details because they were confidential. The museum was widely criticized for failing to address the issue. Helmer maintained that he always followed museum policy, the paper reported.

The museum also came under fire for allegedly protecting a retail employee who was accused of physically assaulting colleagues.

Then, in 2020, after workers launched a campaign to unionize, the institution hired a union-busting law firm for the negotiations, leading to further criticism.

At the time he announced his resignation last summer, Rub said: “If I had to turn back the clock, I would have also recognized sooner that we needed to focus at the same time—and with equal vigor—on the museum’s internal culture. We’re doing that work now, and the museum will be better off for it.”

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