Just one month after the investor Leon Black said that he would not stand for re-election as the chairman of the Museum of Modern Art, the museum on Tuesday chose his replacement: Marie-Josée Kravis, 71, its president emerita.
Kravis’s tenure will become effective on July 1, when Black’s term expires.
“Thank you very, very much,” Kravis said during Tuesday’s virtual board meeting, in a recording obtained by The Times. “I know it’s a huge responsibility. I will try to live up to it.”
Kravis also commended the director, Glenn D. Lowry, and the staff for continuing to present strong exhibitions over the past challenging year. “It’s fantastic that, in this very difficult time, we’ve been able to keep an unparalleled program,” she said, adding, “I welcome all of your ideas.”
Black, who has led the board since June 2018, announced his decision to step down after artists and activists protested his continued service as chairman, given his ties to the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Pressure on Black built after the revelation earlier this year that he had paid $158 million to Epstein for tax and estate advisory services — payments that began several years after Epstein had pleaded guilty in 2008 to soliciting prostitution from a teenage girl.
Black will remain a MoMA trustee, though activists have objected to his continued service and say his presence on the board is emblematic of larger issues at the museum. “Whether Black stays or goes, a consensus has emerged,” says StrikeMoMA, a coalition of artist and activist groups, on its website. “Beyond any one board member, MoMA itself is the problem.”
The group has been gathering every Friday across from the museum to demand a “post-MoMA future.” In a recent letter to Lowry, StrikeMoMA announced plans to take these protests inside the museum.
At Tuesday’s board meeting, Ronnie Heyman was also elected to a second term as president.
Kravis, a philanthropist and avid collector with her husband, the financier Henry R. Kravis, has been a member of the MoMA board since 1994 and previously served as president from 2005 to 2018.
“She will make an excellent chairman,” said the real estate executive Jerry I. Speyer, MoMA’s chairman emeritus, who served alongside Kravis. “She combines intelligence, appreciation for great art and has a wonderful relationship with the staff. The museum couldn’t ask for more.”