Timothy Rub, the longtime director and chief executive officer of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, announced on Friday that he will retire in early 2022.
During the course of his 13-year tenure, Rub was responsible for overseeing a major renovation project that opened to acclaim earlier this year. Over the past few years, however, workers at the museum have spoken out against Rub, claiming that he mishandled allegations of sexual harassment among his staff and reacted inappropriately to Black Lives Matter protests.
Rub succeeded the museum’s previous director, Anne d’Harnoncourt, following her unexpected death in 2009. During her tenure, d’Harnoncourt launched an $500 million renovation and construction project designed by Frank Gehry, and Rub assumed responsibility for fundraising and later revisions to the design. He detailed the latter in the 2014 exhibition “Making a Classic Modern: Frank Gehry’s Master Plan.”
In spring 2021, after a decade of planning and four years of construction, the renovation was completed. The widely praised expansion added 23,000 square feet of reimagined gallery space to the historic building and involved a renovation of the museum’s auditorium, which was first built in 1959. The project also improved visitor circulation and upgraded the museum infrastructure. In May, Rub reported that about 90 percent of the funding for the project had been raised.
“It has been a great honor to serve as the director of one of this country’s finest art museums,” Rub said in a statement. “It has also been a privilege to work with a talented and dedicated staff and with a group of trustees.”
In the past year, the museum has contended with unionization efforts and allegations of harassment and physical abuse by midlevel management. In 2020, the New York Times reported that the museum had failed to properly investigate concerns that former education manager Joshua Helmer had sexually harassed female subordinates. Helmer stayed with the museum until 2018, when he resigned. He was later appointed director of the Erie Art Museum in Pennsylvania. After the New York Times investigation was published, Helmer was ousted from his post.
In a closed-door meeting, Rub reportedly apologized to hundreds of Philadelphia Museum of Art employees for mishandling the allegations of harassment and the subsequent fallout.
In August of last year, an overwhelming majority of employees voted to unionize, making the institution home to one of the largest museum unions in the United States. The vote was held amid calls for greater accountability from leadership and increased equity in hiring.
Earlier that year, a number of Black employees sharply criticized Rub and president Gail Harrity for a letter sent to staff that condemned the largely peaceful Black Lives Matter protests as “compromised by the looting and destruction of property.” The letter fueled tensions at the century-old institution, which had become a backdrop for thousands of protestors demanding justice for Black Americans killed by the police in the city.
Since then, leadership has begun implementing a series of initiatives intended to improve the workplace culture, including diversity training and an anonymous hotline for reporting misbehavior. This month, Alphonso Atkins Jr. is set to begin as the museum’s first director of diversity, equity, inclusion and access.
Rub is the latest in a line of leaders to depart the PMA this year. In September, Harrity resigned. That same month, deputy director of collections and exhibitions Alice Beamesderfer also left. Rub will officially step down on January 30, and is currently helping the board search for his replacement.