Anne d'Harnoncourt, 64; Led Phila. Art Museum

The museum's stature rose under Anne d'Harnoncourt.
The museum's stature rose under Anne d'Harnoncourt. (Matt Rourke - AP)
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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Anne d'Harnoncourt, 64, the longtime chief executive of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and one of the art world's most influential women, died June 2 at her home in Philadelphia. No cause of death was reported.

Ms. D'Harnoncourt arrived at the museum in 1967 as a curatorial assistant. She became museum director in 1982 and was named to replace Robert Montgomery Scott in 1997 as the museum's chief executive.

The museum, with 225,000 pieces of art in its neoclassical building, is a fixture in Philadelphia. Ms. d'Harnoncourt was widely credited with improving the museum's facilities and its stature in the art world.

The museum's first expansion since 1928 opened in September, offering new space to show collections of costumes and textiles, photographs and modern design. From 1992 to 1995, Ms. d'Harnoncourt oversaw the reinstallation of the museum's European collections in more than 90 galleries.

In January, the museum won a major honor when its proposal for an exhibition on American artist Bruce Nauman was chosen by the State Department to represent the nation at the 53rd Venice Biennale next year.

"It's a wonderful thing to be able to express your belief in an artist and express it on an international stage," Ms. d'Harnoncourt told the Philadelphia Inquirer in January.

The museum's statement credited Ms. d'Harnoncourt with encouraging major exhibitions, including retrospectives of sculptor Constantin Brancusi and painter Paul C├ęzanne and surveys of Pennsylvania German art and Japanese design.

She also led the charge to raise tens of millions of dollars to keep the Thomas Eakins masterpiece "The Gross Clinic" in the city after learning of its impending sale to a group that included Wal-Mart Stores heiress Alice Walton.

Ms. D'Harnoncourt was born Sept. 7, 1943, in Washington and raised in New York. She was the only child of Rene d'Harnoncourt, art historian and director of New York's Museum of Modern Art from 1949 to 1967. Her mother was Sara Carr, a fashion designer.

Anne d'Harnoncourt was a graduate of Radcliffe College and the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. She was a specialist in the art of Marcel Duchamp.

Survivors include her husband of 37 years, Joseph J. Rishel, a senior curator at the Philadelphia museum.

-- From Wire Services

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