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San Jose Museum of Art appoints S. Sayre Batton as Oshman Executive Director
Susan Sayre Batton, Oshman Executive Director, San Jose Museum of Art. Photo by Gary Sexton.

SAN JOSE, CA.- At last night’s members’ event, the San Jose Museum of Art announced the appointment of Susan Sayre Batton as Oshman Executive Director. Batton served as the Museum’s interim director since February 1 and filled the role of deputy director for curatorial affairs from October 2015.

As deputy director, Batton oversaw SJMA’s curatorial and exhibitions departments and provided leadership, vision, and management for the ongoing growth of the Museum’s core curatorial programs and initiatives. In her first year at SJMA, she conducted a national search and hired curator Lauren Schell Dickens from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Dickens’s first exhibitions at SJMA are currently on view: Diana Al-Hadid: Liquid City and The Darkened Mirror: Global Perspectives on Water, which features work by international artists Vibha Galhotra, Gerco de Ruijter, Jesper Just, and Khvay Samnang alongside that of Bay Area artist Amy Balkin.

“On behalf of the Board I am thrilled that Sayre Batton is taking on the new role as SJMA’s new director,” said Hildy Shandell, president of SJMA’s Board of trustees. “She will be a dynamic leader for our energetic curators, excellent exhibitions team, and talented staff. We look forward to working together on the Museum’s new strategic plan and are confident she will lead SJMA to continued and greater success in the coming years.”

“In this pivotal moment, I'm eager to build upon the Museum's history of groundbreaking, socially engaged, and technologically forward-looking programs," Batton said. "In collaboration with my talented staff and the wider art world, SJMA will partner in new ways with the innovators and makers in San Jose, Silicon Valley, and beyond. The Board, staff, and volunteers are a dynamic troika of dedication, talent, and experience. I am grateful for the positive feedback and welcome from my colleagues as well as the artists, educators, cultural leaders, and members who make SJMA such a special place.”

As liaison to SJMA’s acquisitions committee, Batton has actively pursued new opportunities leading to major acquisitions. Recent highlights include Hito Steyerl’s Factory to the Sun, 2015, co-acquired with the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles and Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Chicago, and Won Ju Lim’s expansive installation work California Dreamin’ (2002). She has also launched collaborative exhibition initiatives. For example, SJMA will premiere the exhibition This is Not a Selfie from the Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection of Photographic Self-Portraits at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, on view in San Jose August 24, 2017– January 14, 2018.

“The San Jose Museum of Art and the northern California art community are fortunate that S. Sayre Batton is becoming our new executive director,” said Museum trustee Peter Lipman. “As a long-time member of the Board and the Museum’s acquisition committee, I’ve been highly impressed by the exceptional leadership skills Sayre has shown in managing curatorial affairs at SJMA, her in-depth networking with the San Jose and northern California art communities, and her widespread contacts, knowledge, and high regard within the broader art world.”

Before joining the staff at SJMA, Batton served as managing director of Dia:Beacon from 2010 to 2015. During Batton's tenure, Dia:Beacon re-invigorated its education initiatives, increased attendance, and was awarded Hudson Valley business and community service accolades. From 2012 to 2015, she was also director of administration for Dia Art Foundation, where she led Dia Art Foundation’s Utah Partnership for the stewardship of Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, the legendary earthwork in the Great Salt Lake, Utah, and was a key player, with Dia’s leadership, in negotiating the acquisition of 30 major artworks for the collection.

Previously, Batton directed Modern Views, an exhibition and publication project of the National Trust for Historic Preservation at The Glass House, Philip Johnson’s modern masterpiece. From 2005 to 2008, Batton was deputy director at the Honolulu Museum of Art where she organized the exhibition Won Ju Lim: In Many Things to Come (2006) as well as collaborated with curators on internationally touring exhibitions such as Hawaiian Modern: The Architecture of Vladimir Ossipoff (2007), with a catalogue published by Yale University Press. She has been a consultant to several museums, including the Hammer Museum, University of California, Los Angeles, and the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, CA, and from 1993 to 1995 was associate director at Los Angeles Center for Photographic Studies.

Batton received a BFA in studio art from Denison University, Granville, OH, with a minor in art history, and undertook postgraduate work in the Visual Arts Program at Princeton University, New Jersey, where she was a Mellon Fellow. Thereafter, she was a National Endowment for the Arts fellow at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. From 1995 to 2005, Batton directed a private practice in Los Angeles and provided art conservation and exhibitions management consulting services to museums, collections, and art organizations, as well as public-arts advocacy for the Community Redevelopment Agency’s Hollywood Arts and Design Advisory Panel. Active on grant panels and boards regionally and nationally, Batton also serves on the Marignoli di Montecorona Foundation advisory board, based in Spoleto, Italy.

Batton assumes her new position today. She will work closely with the Museum’s Board of Trustees and staff on strategic planning to advance the full range of SJMA’s artistic mission and achieve high standards for scholarship, creativity, and audience engagement.

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