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Should your CEO come from your industry?

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Madeleine Dore

Recent appointments and position openings for key cultural institutions in Australia and abroad have sparked conversation around taking leaps within the arts sector.

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Image by Spanish photographer Yago Partal

The Brooklyn Museum’s recent appointment of its new director Anne Pasternak – who has never actually worked in a museum – has been described as shaking up the art world in the best way possible way.

In an industry that sees a threat to artistic life with the creeping replacement of artistic leaders with managers and producers, Pasternak’s welcomed appointment raises the question of what qualities make it possible to successfully jump between industries within the arts.

‘You can’t have expertise in every area in an encyclopedic museum,’ Tom Finkelpearl, commissioner of cultural affairs for New York City, told The New York Times. ‘Mainly you have to be a good evaluator and a good attractor of talent, and Anne is both those things.’

Business Insider editor Lauren Friedman worked closely with Pasternak at Creative Time said, ‘I can testify firsthand though that she consistently inspires the people around her, pushing artists to dream big and rallying employees and supporters to great loyalty and devotion.’

If this appointment is anything to go by, ​success as a CEO in the arts comes down – at least in part – to a combination of business smarts and the ability to nurture staff.

Closer to home, the State Library of Victoria is currently advertising for a new CEO, a role which was previously ​titled State Librarian until recent years.

With plans for an $80 million redevelopment and increased digital capacity for the Library, the position description calls for a new CEO to ​steer the library through this ‘exciting new phase’ and perhaps surprisingly notes that the ‘successful candidate does not need to have a background in library or information management.’

About the author

Madeleine Dore is a freelance writer and founder of Extraordinary Routines, an interview project exploring the intersection between creativity and imperfection. She is the previous Deputy Editor at ArtsHub. Follow her on Twitter at @RoutineCurator