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Vishakha N Desai
- to become President of Asia Society


April 1, 2004, New York, NY

Richard C. Holbrooke, Chairman of the Asia Society Board of Trustees, announced today that Vishakha N. Desai has been selected to be the Society s sixth president. With this appointment, Dr. Desai becomes the first woman and first Asian American to lead the educational nonprofit institution, founded in 1956 by John D. Rockefeller 3rd to foster understanding between Asia and America. She succeeds Nicholas Platt who is retiring this summer after twelve years as president.

Ambassador Holbrooke remarked, "We have chosen Vishakha Desai because she is the best possible leader for the next generation of the Asia Society. Asia has changed. The U.S. has changed. And certainly the importance of Asian Americans in our society has changed. Asia Society has changed as well. Dr. Desai s appointment as president represents a series of exhilarating firsts. Through her thirteen years of personal and professional dedication to our organization, she brings an unprecedented understanding of arts and culture in the broader social, political, and economic context. Dr. Desai s strengths and vision combined make her the ideal leader for this important and dynamic organization."

Since 1990 when she was named the Director of the Galleries, Dr. Desai has had a distinguished career at Asia Society, where she assumed progressively major roles and responsibilities, her most recent being Senior Vice President and Director of the Museum and Cultural Programs. She has built an international reputation for introducing contemporary Asian art to a broad audience and using it to illuminate historical trends and their influence on the development of today s societies. She has also been at the forefront of integrating Asian American issues into the Society s public programs, which encompass a wide array of creative, social, political, and business topics.

Dr. Desai has been a critical leader at an institutional level in recent years. She played an instrumental role in the renovation of the Asia Society world headquarters in New York City. The new facilities, which opened in fall 2001, have sparked a fresh and contemporary vitality for the institution resulting in diversification and significant growth of audiences and funding sources.

John Thornton, head of the search committee and Asia Society trustee commented, "Vishakha Desai brings an extraordinary career and stature to this unique organization. No one is better qualified to succeed Nick Platt and lead the Asia Society. The trustees of the Society have offered their unanimous support for this exciting decision by the committee."

Vishakha N Desai received her B.A. from Bombay University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. Recipient of numerous grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Indo-U.S. Subcommission on Education and Culture, and the American Institute of Indian Studies, Dr. Desai has published extensively on traditional Indian and contemporary Asian art. Her publications include catalogues of exhibitions she has organized, such as Gods, Guardians and Lovers: Temple Sculpture from North India A.D. 700-1200, and Life at Court: Art for India s Rulers, 16th-19th Centuries, as well as articles articulating the need for the study of contemporary Asian art.

Dr. Desai has lectured extensively on traditional and contemporary Asian and Asian American art in the U.S., Asia and Europe, and has served as an advisor and juror for numerous international projects on contemporary art, including the 2003 Venice Biennale. She has also been a frequent speaker to business audiences on the role of culture in changing Asian societies. Prior to assuming her positions at the Asia Society, Dr. Desai was at The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston as a curator of Indian, Southeast Asian and Islamic art, as well as a head of public programs and academic affairs. She has also taught at the University of Massachusetts, Boston University and Columbia University.

Dr. Desai has served in a leadership capacity for many organizations. She currently sits on the boards of Citizens for NYC, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, LEAP (Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics), and New York City Advisory Commission for Cultural Affairs. From 1998 to 1999, she served as the President of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD). She has also served on the Boards of the South Asian Council of the Association of Asian Studies, the College Art Association, ArtTable, and the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities.

About Asia Society
Asia Society is America s leading institution dedicated to fostering understanding of Asia and communication between Americans and the peoples of Asia and the Pacific. A nonprofit, nonpartisan educational institution, the Asia Society and Museum presents a wide range of programs including major art exhibitions, performances, media programs, international conferences and lectures, and initiatives to improve elementary and secondary education about Asia. The Asia Society is headquartered in New York City, with regional centers in Washington, D.C., Houston, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Melbourne, Australia, San Francisco, Manila and Shanghai.


For more information, contact
Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021
Ph: (212) 288 - 6400
www.asiasociety.org