Ottawa

CEO of National Gallery moves on to job at Philadelphia Museum of Art

The director and CEO of the National Gallery of Canada has accepted a new job at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, after just over three years in Ottawa. 

Sasha Suda held the CEO position for just over 3 years

Sasha Suda came to the National Gallery of Canada as its director and CEO in February 2019. She's now accepted a job as the George D. Widener Director and CEO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

The director and CEO of the National Gallery of Canada has accepted a new job at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, after just over three years in Ottawa. 

Sasha Suda, 41, was the youngest person named to the National Gallery's top job since the First World War when she accepted the posting in 2019, according to a release from the Philadelphia museum. 

Under Suda, the National Gallery undertook its first-ever strategic plan, which focused on accessibility, diversity and inclusion and created the gallery's new department of Indigenous ways and decolonization. 

"That's the work I really love doing. I'm really passionate about management," Suda told CBC on Tuesday. 

Suda's time at the institution overlapped with the COVID-19 pandemic, which she described as a moment to listen and rethink what art institutions can do for society.

"People turn to visual arts as a place to reflect and spend time again. And so museums have this newfound — it's not newfound — but it's this revitalized relevance." 

Under Sasha Suda, the National Gallery undertook its first-ever strategic plan, which focused on accessibility, diversity and inclusion and created the gallery's new department of Indigenous ways and decolonization.  (Andrew Van Beek/National Gallery of Canada)

She said something she'll miss about the National Gallery is the accountability that is required for a public institution with a national mandate. 

"I think that there's a real privilege to that, and it's a real challenge," she said, noting there are very few galleries with a national mandate in North America — much more common is a civic mandate like the one her new job has to the city of Philadelphia. 

Suda, who is from Toronto, is familiar with the area after studying at Princeton and New York University. 

The museum is known for its 240,000 pieces of art, with a focus on medieval art, which Suda studied during her PhD — but also its steps which Sylvester Stallone ran in the movie Rocky.

At age 38, Sasha Suda was the youngest person to lead the National Gallery of Canada in more than a century. But after a major rebranding, she’s moving on before the end of her term

Along with the art, Suda said the opportunity interested her because the museum was entering a new chapter, focusing on engaging with the community and fostering a positive workplace culture. 

In 2020, the New York Times reported sexual harassment allegations against one of the museum's managers. 

"I'm drawn to that opportunity to help rebuild and revitalize culture," she said. 

Suda, whose last day is July 9, said she's appreciated the chance to be back in the office to say goodbye to her co-workers in person and is riding the wave of excitement from the gallery's summer show, General Idea. 

A spokesperson for the National Gallery said an interim CEO will be appointed soon, with the plan to have the position filled permanently within the next eight months. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sara Frizzell

News producer

Sara Frizzell is a reporter with CBC Ottawa. Previously, she worked as the news producer at CBC Nunavut. She's worked in radio, podcasting and longform journalism since graduating from Carleton University's journalism program in 2013. Contact her at sara.frizzell@cbc.ca

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