Jill Medvedow, the longtime director of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston who helped transform the institution during her 25-year tenure, will step down from her post in December 2024. The museum’s board of trustees has formed a search committee to find her replacement.
“Jill transformed the ICA into an anchor institution in Boston, and one of the leading centers for artistic experimentation and contemporary culture in the country,” board co-chair Steven D. Corkin and board president Charlotte Wagner said in a joint statement. “Working with staff, artists, teachers, students, and community partners, she has integrated new art and ideas into the heart of our communities, bridged the connection between contemporary art and civic life, and in doing so, forever changed the landscape for contemporary art and culture in the city of Boston.”
Among Medvedow’s most important contributions to the ICA Boston is helping to secure its permanent home on the Boston Harbor waterfront. Since its founding in 1936, the ICA Boston had moved some ten times, before settling at a former police headquarters at 955 Boylston Street in 1973.
Upon her arrival in 1998, Medvedow set to work on developing what would become the ICA Boston’s current location, a 62,000-square-foot building designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro that opened in 2006. In 2018, Medvedow expanded the institution’s footprint once again by opening the ICA Watershed, a 15,000-square-foot seasonal space across the harbor in East Boston. During her tenure, she has raised over $200 million across these building campaigns.
Similarly, when Medvedow joined the ICA Boston, the institution was set up as a non-collecting kunsthalle with a mission to present the latest in contemporary art. As part of the move to the waterfront location, Medvedow tweaked that mission to include a permanent collection, including two major donations, totaling 68 works, from longtime patron Barbara Lee’s holdings of work by women artists. According to the ICA Boston, the permanent collection consists of nearly 60 percent of work by women-identifying artists and 38 percent by artists of color.
Over the past 25 years, several major exhibitions have been mounted at the ICA Boston under Medvedow’s leadership. Among them are important group exhibitions like “Fiber: Sculpture 1960–present” (in 2014), “Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933–1957” (2015), “Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today” (2018), and “When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Migration through Contemporary Art” (2019), as well as solos for artists like Arlene Shechet, Amy Sillman, Jeffrey Gibson, Yayoi Kusama, Huma Bhabha, Deana Lawson, Nick Cave, Doris Salcedo, and Ragnar Kjartansson. Commissions at the ICA Watershed included ones by John Akomfrah, Firelei Báez, and Guadalupe Maravilla.
The ICA Boston’s crowning achievement came when it was named as the commissioning institution for the US Pavilion at the 2022 Venice Biennale, with Simone Leigh as its representative. Medvedow served as the exhibition’s co-commissioner and a version of that exhibition traveled to the ICA Boston earlier this year.
In May, Eva Respini, who had served as the ICA Boston’s chief curator since 2015, stepped down. Senior curator Ruth Erickson was promoted to the role, beginning the following month.
In 2022, Medvedow was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2023, she became a fellow at the Harvard Divinity School.
In a statement, Medvedow said, “I love the ICA; I love its people and programs, and I am excited for all of us as we move forward.”