THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART (NGA) is adding to its executive ranks. Today, the museum announced the appointment of Eric L. Motley as deputy director, a critical role focused on driving the institution’s mission, building awareness and support for its programing, and expanding and better serving its audiences. He officially starts at NGA on Aug. 30.

Motley joins the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., from the Aspen Institute, the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to “drive change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the greatest challenges of our time.” He has served since 2007 at Aspen, most recently as an executive vice president and the corporate secretary, responsible for institutional advancement and governance.

At NGA, Motley will oversee congressional relations, development and membership, communications, special events, visitor experience and evaluation, and the division of content strategy, publishing, and branding.

The museum said Motley “will be responsible for developing and deploying a national strategy for the museum through civic, cultural, and philanthropic partnerships, and advancing the National Gallery’s renewed mission in tandem with its operational and revenue-generation plans.” His expansive portfolio also includes working with the museum’s newly elevated chief development officer to identify and engage with a wider range of supporters and grow the museum’s donor base.

“As part of the National Gallery of Art’s renewed commitment to serving the American people, we are excited to work with Eric in maximizing awareness of the Gallery. Eric’s experience expanding a national program will enable us to further broaden our reach and impact,” Kaywin Feldman, director of the National Gallery of Art, said in a statement. “I am thrilled that Eric will join our team to help us do this critical work.”

“As part of the National Gallery of Art’s renewed commitment to serving the American people, we are excited to work with Eric in maximizing awareness of the Gallery. Eric’s experience expanding a national program will enable us to further broaden our reach and impact.”
— NGA Director Kaywin Feldman

Prior to his tenure at the Aspen Institute, Motley served in the George W. Bush administration. At the U.S. State Department, he was counselor to the Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, and also served as director of the U.S. Department of State’s Office of International Visitors. Earlier, Motley spent more than four years in the Office of Presidential Personnel, where his roles included Special Assistant to President managing presidential appointments to advisory boards and commission positions.

Motley serves on the boards of prominent cultural and civic institutions, including the Morgan Library and Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art, both in New York City; and WETA, the Arlington, Va.-based public broadcasting station that serves Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. He was also a jury member of the Ken Burns American Heritage Prize (2018).

He earned a Ph.D. in political philosophy and masters of letters in international relations from St. Andrew’s University (Scotland) and he received a BA in political theory and philosophy from Samford University in Birmingham, Ala.

THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART dates back to 1936 when Andrew W. Mellon, art collector, financier, and secretary of the U.S. treasury (1921-1932) offered the U.S. government a gift of artworks and a museum to house them. President Franklin D. Roosevelt endorsed the idea and Congress accepted the gift in 1937. The museum underwent construction on the National Mall and opened to the public 80 years ago in March 1941.

Feldman became director of the National Gallery of Art in 2018 and over the past year has made appointments that have markedly increased Black representation among the museum’s leadership. Since its founding, zero African Americans had served as executive officers at NGA. Now there are three (among a team of seven). Steven Nelson started as dean of NGA’s Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA) in July 2020. Sheila McDaniel joined the museum as administrator in September 2020. Motley will join their ranks in August.

Since its founding 80 years ago, zero African Americans had served as executive officers the National Gallery of Art. Now there are three (among a team of seven).

In addition, Ford Foundation President Darren Walker was elected to the National Gallery of Art’s board of trustees in September 2019. More recently, Kanitra Fletcher was named the museum’s first-ever associate curator of African American and Afro-Diasporic art. She started in February.

As deputy director and an executive officer, Motley reports directly to Feldman and will play a key role in NGA’s focus on public service. He is charged with leading “the museum’s externally facing, mission-based work, in service of the nation, by welcoming all people to explore and experience art, creativity, and our shared humanity.”

In a statement, Motley said he is looking forward to the opportunity: “Over the course of my career and in my personal life, I have spent time with museum leaders, directors, curators, and board members, all across the country, learning about how museums work and how they fulfill their missions. I believe that we are witnessing a paradigm shift in our nation with respect to the role that museums play in our cities and communities—connecting people to transcendent ideas and inspiring creativity. This is where the National Gallery is headed and I am honored to contribute to this journey.” CT


IMAGE: Eric L. Motley. | Photo © Tony Powell


FIND MORE National Gallery of Art Director Kaywin Feldman spoke to Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post about the controversial decision to delay “Philip Guston Now,” the traveling exhibition featuring the artist’s comic-style images of Klan figures


In 2017, Eric L. Motley authored “Madison Park: A Place of Hope,” a memoir about growing up in a small community in Alabama founded by freed slaves in 1880. “Philip Guston Now” documents the traveling exhibition co-organized by the National Gallery of Art and three other museums—Tate Modern, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Artists Glenn Ligon and Trenton Doyle Hancock are among those who contributed essays to the exhibition catalog.


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