U.S. Design Maven Denis Weil Likely to Head Israel Museum

Designer and activist Denis Weil's family has been donating to the museum for years. His father Ernst established the Swiss Friends of the Museum organization

Naama Riba
Naama Riba
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Visitors in The Israel Museum in 2020
Visitors in The Israel Museum in 2020Credit: Emil Salman
Naama Riba
Naama Riba

Ido Bruno, the Israel Museum’s director for the last four years, is ending his term this week. Haaretz has learned that his apparent replacement is Prof. Denis Weil from Switzerland, currently the dean of the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.

The 60-year-old Weil has been teaching in Chicago since 2005. According to the institute’s website, Weil has been working in design for 30 years, focusing on pushing the boundaries of design and business, and more recently on design and the public and social sectors. Before serving as dean, Weil was vice president for innovation and design at McDonald’s, where he worked 2001-2014. He was a consultant for social and public organizations, as well as for non-profit groups such as Michael Bloomberg Philanthropies.

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In May this year, Bruno announced his intention of stepping down as director of the Israel Museum. Since then, a search committee has been trying to find a replacement, emphasizing the need for someone who could bring in donations, as these having fallen by 50 percent in recent years. Several sources said senior managers of Israeli cultural institutions have not applied for the position. Only one senior curator at the Israel Museum itself applied for the job.

The managerial vacuum left at the museum is similar to the situation there in 2017. In 2016, James Snyder left the museum after heading it for 20 years. At first, he was replaced by Prof. Eran Neumann, who is currently the dean of the Faculty of Arts at Tel Aviv University, but he soon resigned.

Weil is Jewish and speaks English, German and French, with only a little Hebrew. His family has been donating to the museum for years. His father Ernst established the Swiss Friends of the Museum organization and his sister Corinne used to work at the museum. Furthermore, his brother Phillipe is the chairperson of the Israeli Friends of the Israel Museum.

Denis Weil has visited Israel many times, giving lectures and participating in conferences. He was the keynote speaker at a conference organized by the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in 2013, a conference which dealt with managing design as an instrument in creating common value. He also attended a conference organized by the Tamir recycling corporation in 2014. He is a social activist and a board member of Face Theater, a leading gay cultural institution, and a member in various Jewish organizations and foundations.

In response, the Israel Museum stated, “The search committee dealing with the selection of a director is working vigorously but has not yet formulated its recommendations to the board of directors, which has the authority to make the appointment. The committee discussed several candidates, and Denis Weil was one of them. Until the new director assumes office, a committee consisting of board members will serve as caretaker.”

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