Bowers Museum announces new president and a $1M donation

Seán O’Harrow is the new president and CEO at Bowers Museum.
Seán O’Harrow is the new president and CEO at Bowers Museum.
(Courtesy of Seán O’Harrow Bowers Museum)

Bowers Museum announced the appointment of Sean O’Harrow as its new president and chief executive officer earlier this month. O’Harrow follows the tenure of the late Peter C. Keller, who served as president of the Bowers museum from 1991 until his death last November.

“We are delighted to welcome Sean as the new president and CEO of Bowers Museum,” Anne Shih, chairwoman of the board of governors said in a statement. “He is an exceptional leader with a deep passion for the arts, and his vision aligns perfectly with our museum’s mission. As we honor the incredible legacy left by Dr. Peter C. Keller, we are eager to embrace this new era of leadership and continued growth under Sean’s guidance.”

O’Harrow brings more than 15 years of experience leading public and university museums. O’Harrow credits his early education in his hometown of Honolulu, with fostering an early love for the arts. He went on to earn an art history degree at Harvard University and his PhD in History of Art & Architecture from Cambridge University.


“I am deeply humbled to join Bowers Museum, an institution with a rich history of inspiring and engaging the community through art and culture,” said O’Harrow. “I am eager to work collaboratively with the talented staff and dedicated board to further elevate the museum’s impact and embrace our diverse audiences.”

O’Harrow said he is looking forward to continue to build on the strong foundation Keller created for Bowers.

“Dr. Keller has helped create such a marvelous and relevant institution, and I am incredibly honored to be appointed his successor,” said O’Harrow.

Seán O’Harrow, the new president and CEO at Bowers, stands outside the museum.
Seán O’Harrow, the new president and CEO at Bowers, stands outside the museum.
(Courtesy of Bowers Museum)

O’Harrow’s appointment comes on the heels of another announcement from the museum: a generous donation of $1 million to Bowers from the Mary and John Tu Foundation.

“We are incredibly grateful to John and Mary Tu for their extraordinary gift,” said Shih. “Their generosity will enable us to enhance our mission of enriching lives through the world’s finest arts and cultures.”

The philanthropic, private Mary and John Tu Foundation is based in Fountain Valley and supports education, performing arts, youth sports, wildlife conservation, the homeless and the arts. The museum intends to use the donation to support the expansion of its education and exhibition programs, like Anne’s Treasures, a program that empowers seniors by offering interactive workshops and exhibition tours at Bowers to the senior community.

The Tu’s contribution will also support an installation at South Coast Plaza, on display in the in Jewel Court now until Aug. 28.

“We are thrilled to collaborate with South Coast Plaza for this special installation,” said Shih.

The installation will include a selection of objects from Bowers renowned permanent collection as well as a wrap unveiling the upcoming fall exhibitions, “The Power of Photography and Beyond the Great Wave: Works by Hokusai from the British Museum.” Viewers can look forward to painted Japanese ceramics, one of the first Oscars ever made on behalf of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, colorful headdresses from New Guinea and more. “The Power of Photography” will feature a selection of over 70 original prints curated by collector and gallerist Peter Fetterman, on view Oct. 7 to Jan. 14, while “Beyond the Great Wave: Works by Hokusai from the British Museum” will include works Hokusai produced up until his death at age 90, on view at Bowers Oct. 21. to Jan. 7.

Shih said she hopes the special installation will inspire residents to pay a visit to the Bowers Museum.

“This unique presentation will provide many new potential visitors with an exciting introduction to the diverse beauty and cultural significance of our permanent collection from around the globe.”