The Institute of Contemporary Art has named a new director. Zoë Ryan, currently chair and curator of the architecture and design department at the Art Institute of Chicago, is slated to take over the museum at the University of Pennsylvania Nov. 5.

Ryan said she was looking forward to building on the history of the ICA.

“The ICA is a place I’ve long admired, and especially its commitment to interdisciplinary practice across art, design, and architecture. I am really interested in that intersection.”

The ICA was previously headed by Amy Sadao, who announced last September that she was stepping down after more than seven years to pursue other opportunities.

The museum, founded in 1963, was an early presenter of Andy Warhol, and has hosted shows and appearances by Philip Glass, Christo, Louise Fishman, Robert Mapplethorpe, and other cutting-edge artists and musicians.

The Institute of Contemporary Art at 36th and Sansom Streets, in a file photo.
Institute of Contemporary Art
The Institute of Contemporary Art at 36th and Sansom Streets, in a file photo.

The London-born Ryan, 43, has been the architecture and design chair and curator at the Art Institute of Chicago since 2011, and was curator of design there from 2006 to 2010. Before that, she was a senior curator and editor for the Van Alen Institute in Brooklyn. She has a master’s degree in art history from Hunter College of the City University of New York, and was also educated in Sussex and Amsterdam.

At the Art Institute of Chicago, she has managed a staff of eight full-time employees in a department that presents six temporary exhibitions and two collection rotations per year, plus 20 or more public programs. She has also been an active fund-raiser for exhibitions, acquisitions, and public programs at the museum, her resume notes.

For the ICA, which is part of Penn but also maintains its own board, Ryan said she is interested in “thinking really critically with the community about what it takes to be an inclusive and expansive center at this moment, but also trying to be a responsive and good collaborator with the city, the community in which it is located, as well as the international community.”

The museum, at 36th and Sansom Streets, has been shut down during the pandemic, but is slated to reopen Sept. 25 with an exhibition organized with Ars Nova Workshop on jazz percussionist and visual artist Milford Graves.