Kim Sajet headshot
Under Secretary for Museums and Culture

Kim Sajet

Director, National Portrait Gallery

Kim Sajet (pronounced Sayet) is the director of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. She leads the museum, established by Congress in 1962, which displays images of the individuals who have made significant contributions to the history, development, and culture of the people of the United States.

Sajet oversees a core staff of 97 with a total annual federal budget of about $23 million and a collection of about 26,000 objects that attracts around 2 million visitors a year. The museum’s mission is to champion art, history and biography to understand the story of the United States and remind people that their actions can change the world. The National Portrait Gallery shares its space with the Smithsonian American Art Museum in the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, a National Historic Landmark building at Eighth and F streets N.W. in Washington.

Before joining the Smithsonian, Sajet was the president and CEO of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, headquartered in Philadelphia, from 2007 to 2013. Before that she was senior vice president and deputy director of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts for seven years. From 1998 until 2001, Sajet served as director of corporate relations at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and she served first as curator and then the director of two Australian art museums from 1989 until 1995.

Sajet has served on numerous arts and culture boards and held a seat on the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and the Mayor of Philadelphia’s Cultural Advisory boards. In addition to 20 years of arts management experience, she has written a number of scholarly publications, curated permanent and touring exhibitions, and spoken at academic symposia.

Born in Nigeria, raised in Australia and a citizen of the Netherlands, Sajet brings a global perspective to the position. She has earned a doctorate in liberal studies from Georgetown University, a master’s degree in art history from Bryn Mawr College, a master’s degree in business administration from Melbourne University Business School in Australia, a bachelor’s degree in art history from Melbourne University and a graduate diploma in museum studies from Deakin University in Australia. She has completed arts leadership training at the Harvard Business School, the Getty Institute and National Arts Strategies. 

In addition to arts management experience, Sajet has written a number of scholarly publications, curated exhibitions and spoken at academic symposia around the world. Since June 2019 she has been the host of the “PORTRAITS” podcast where “art, biography, history and identity collide,” interviewing artists, scholars and thought leaders about the intersection between portraiture and culture. Her current interests include early photography, social reformers of the 19th century, semiotics, identity politics and the significance of celebrity culture in U.S. history. Sajet is under contract with Princeton University Press to write a book about the social activist Emily Howland and photography for publication in 2025.

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