Entrepreneur and contemporary art collector Dani Levinas has been elected chairman of the board of trustees at the Phillips Collection, the private modern art museum near Dupont Circle in Washington.
Levinas, who is a D.C. resident, takes control of a dramatically expanded governing body. At the Monday meeting that elected him to the board as chairman, the board approved four other new members and added two vice chair positions. There are now 35 members on the board, up from 28 last year.
“I am excited. [Phillips Collection Director] Dorothy Kosinski has been incredible for the museum,” Levinas said in an interview. “She’s a force. She has done a lot in education and reaching people and showing contemporary art in different ways than was shown before.”
Two of the new board members represent the University of Maryland. Last October, the museum and university announced the University of Maryland Center for Art and Knowledge at the Phillips Collection, a collaboration that brings research and multi-disciplinary programs to the District and will eventually include new gallery and open storage space on or near the university’s College Park, Md., campus.
Levinas becomes the museum’s first new trustee to be elected as chairman. He succeeds George Vradenburg, who joined the board in 2001 and became chairman in 2003. Vradenburg oversaw the museum’s expansion in 2006 and led the effort to increase its endowment from $16 million to more than $50 million. He assumes the title of honorary chairman/trustee emeritus.
Levinas was the visionary behind the effort to create the Institute for Contemporary Expression (ICE) in the long-empty Franklin School, a 19th-century structure designed by Adolf Cluss at 13th Street NW. The plan to create a space for temporary art exhibitions, performances and educational programs won a competitive bid in 2013, but was nixed by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser last year.
ICE still has a board, and Levinas said it is supportive of his new endeavor. “This is a way to continue the idea,” he said. “I can do some of the things we wanted with ICE, maybe in a different format,” he said.
Levinas – along with his wife, Mirella – has supported the museum’s Intersections contemporary art projects by hosting several receptions and private dinners. The couple donated Bernardi Roig’s “Insults to the Public” to the museum in 2014, and lent another Roig work to the exhibition “NO/Escape,” also in 2014.
John Lauer, who serves on the Foundation Board Committees for the UMD College Park Foundation, joins the board with Nancy Clarvit, another member of the university’s College Park Foundation board. Development expert Barbara Hall and former High Museum director Michael Shapiro also were added.
The board created two new vice chair positions: Lindsay Ellenbogen, a trustee who teaches political communication at George Washington University, was elected vice chairwoman with a focus on communications and digital engagement. Scott Spector, a commercial real estate professional, was elected vice chairman with a focus on the museum’s development and financial goals. Carol Melton was voted secretary, and George D. Swygert Jr. becomes treasurer.