Dr. Gary Vikan

Author, Sacred and Stolen: Confessions of a Museum Director

Gary Vikan was Director of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore from 1994 to 2013; from 1985 to 1994, he was the museum’s Assistant Director for Curatorial Affairs and Curator of Medieval Art. Before coming to Baltimore, Vikan was Senior Associate at Harvard’s Center for Byzantine Studies at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, DC. A native of Minnesota, he received his B.A. from Carleton College and his Ph.D. from Princeton University; he is a graduate of the Harvard Program for Art Museum Directors and the National Arts Strategies Chief Executive Program.

An internationally known medieval scholar, Vikan curated a number of critically-acclaimed exhibitions at the Walters, most notably, those devoted to the art of medieval Orthodoxy. During his tenure as director, Vikan led the contextual installation of the museum’s collections, eliminated its general admission fee, and provided open access to all of its digital assets. He led efforts to endow nearly two dozen museum positions, as well as an exhibition fund. Vikan has taught at Johns Hopkins University, Carleton College, Goucher College, and the Salzburg Global Seminar; in October 2014, he was Leader in Residence at the Noyce Leadership Institute. He is currently the Benedict Distinguished Visiting Professor at Carleton College.

From 2006 to 2011 Vikan had a weekly radio program on Baltimore’s NPR affiliate called Postcards from the Walters.

Vikan has served on numerous boards internationally and in the Baltimore region. He currently serves on the Advisory Council on Culture and the Arts of the Salzburg Global Seminar; the Board of Advisors of the Masters in the Liberal Arts Program at Johns Hopkins University; the Advisory Council for Neuro-Aesthetics of the Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University; the Board of the Creative Alliance, Baltimore; the founding Board of the Future Symphony Institute, Baltimore; the founding Board of Culture Kettle, Santa Fe; and the Committee for Cultural Policy in New York City. He is a Councilor of the Maryland State Arts Council. Vikan has been an advisor to the Getty Leadership Institute and Princeton University’s Department of Art and Archaeology. He was appointed by President Clinton in 1999 to his Cultural Property Advisory Committee and was knighted by the French Minister of Culture in the Order of Arts and Letters in 2002. Vikan received Carleton College’s Distinguished Achievement award in 2007; he received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2010.

Vikan stepped down from the Walters directorship to write, lecture, and teach; to provide consulting services as Vikan Consulting LLC to cultural non-profits, collectors, and dealers; and to pursue projects at the intersection of the arts and sciences. In 2015 he was co-chair of a convening at the Salzburg Global Seminar devoted to neuroscience and creativity.

Vikan’s recent books include Early Byzantine Pilgrimage Art (2010); Postcards from the Walters (2012); From the Holy Land to Graceland (2012), and his memoirs, Sacred and Stolen: Confessions of a Museum Director (SelectBooks, September 2016).

Vikan lectures extensively on topics as varied as Byzantine art, Elvis Presley, the Shroud of Turin, looted art and cultural property policy, neuroaesthetics, and art forgeries.