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Kim Sajet Named to Directorship of Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery

Kim Sajet, director designate of National Portrait Gallery

Kim Sajet, director designate of National Portrait Gallery

Kim Sajet (pronounced, “Sayet”), president and CEO of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, has been named to the directorship the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery effective Apr. 1. She succeeds the rock-solid Martin Sullivan, who ably navigated his museum through the uproar caused by the removal of a David Wojnarovicz work from the landmark Hide/Seek exhibition.

As CultureGrrl readers may remember, Sajet oversaw the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts’ regrettable secret sale to an anonymous buyer of one of its signature paintings by Thomas Eakins, “The Cello Player,” to defray the cost of PAFA’s and the Philadelphia Museum’s joint purchase of “The Gross Clinic.” At that time she was PAFA’s deputy director and its top administrator, due to the departure of the Academy’s director, Derek Gillman, for the directorship of the Barnes Foundation.

Shortly after that early 2007 disposal, Sajet left PAFA for the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. I’m hoping that she was unwillingly caught up in the deaccession debacle.

In its press release extolling Sajet’s “extensive art expertise” and “business and fundraising acumen,” the Smithsonian stated:

One of the most notable events in her career was the purchase of Thomas Eakins’ painting “The Gross Clinic” for a record $68 million under a unique museum-sharing arrangement that kept the iconic painting from leaving Philadelphia.

Unmentioned was this loss:

Thomas Eakins, "The Cello Player,"

Thomas Eakins, “The Cello Player”

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