Vishakha N. Desai

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Vishakha N. Desai "is President and CEO of Asia Society, a global educational organization dedicated to deepening connections among the peoples of Asia and the United States. She sets the directions for the Society's diverse set of programs—in the areas of policy, business, arts, culture and education—throughout the Society's network of centers in the U.S. and in Asia. She is a frequent speaker and commentator in the media, addressing cultural, social, educational, business, and policy trends and their implications for the U.S.-Asia relationship and Asian regional ties.

"Appointed President in 2004, Dr. Desai conceptualized and presided over the organization's fiftieth anniversary celebrations in 2006, marked by high-profile activities and expansive fundraising initiatives. As a result of these efforts, the Society is expanding the scope and scale of its activities, particularly in Asia, including a new India Centre in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), which opened in 2006, and planned multi-million-dollar physical facilities in Hong Kong and Houston.

"Prior to her appointment as President, Dr. Desai served as Asia Society’s Senior Vice President and Director of the Museum and Cultural Programs. In this position, she managed the Society’s $40 million renovation of its New York City headquarters. As Museum Director, Dr. Desai 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 society. A scholar of classical Indian art, she has published numerous catalogues and scholarly articles and is widely recognized for conceiving innovative exhibitions of traditional Asian art within strong cultural contexts. She was also at the forefront of the Society’s integration of Asian American issues into its public programming.

"Prior to joining the Asia Society in 1990, Dr. Desai was a curator at The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. She also taught at the University of Massachusetts, Boston University, Columbia University, and Williams College.

"Dr. Desai holds a B.A. in political science from Bombay University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Asian Art History from the University of Michigan. The recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, Dr. Desai was awarded an honorary doctorate from Susquehanna University in 1996. She was also awarded the Asian American of the Year Award by the University of Massachusetts, and by Asian Americans for Equality, and is a recipient of the National Institute of Social Sciences Gold Medal.

"Dr. Desai serves on the boards of The Brookings Institution, Citizens Committee for New York City, Asian University for Women, and the New York City Advisory Commission for Cultural Affairs. She served as the President of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) in 1998-99, and was on the Board from 1995-2000. She has also served on the Boards of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, LEAP (Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics), the South Asian Council of the Association of Asian Studies, the College Art Association, ArtTable, and the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities.

"Dr. Desai is married to Robert B. Oxnam, a China scholar, who was Asia Society's President from 1981 to 1992." [1]

Resources and articles


  1. Officers, Asia Society, accessed July 15, 2007.
  2. Members, East West Center, accessed December 11, 2010.
  3. Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Trustees, organizational web page, accessed May 12, 2018.
  4. Teach for All Board, organizational web page, accessed May 22, 2020.