MINNEAPOLIS, MN March 31, 2015—The Walker Art Center has announced the appointment of Fionn Meade as its first Artistic Director. The newly created position more directly reflects the Walker’s unique role as a public art center with its embrace of multidisciplinary artistic platforms, while also recognizing an ongoing commitment to research and scholarship.
For the past 10 months, Meade has served as Senior Curator of Cross-Disciplinary Platforms, working closely with Walker Executive Director Olga Viso in leading and shaping the artistic vision of the Walker across the art center’s curatorial areas and programs. As Artistic Director he will oversee the visual arts, performing arts, moving image, design, and education and public programs departments and their interaction.
“Fionn’s new role as Artistic Director recasts the familiar Chief Curator title that one typically sees at most art museums into a position more befitting of the Walker in which there are multiple artistic platforms for both artists and audiences to activate and engage,” said Viso. “Fionn’s diverse experience in both moving image and performance-based practices, as well as traditional museum work, make him uniquely qualified to take on this new role at the Walker.”
Meade said, “Artists increasingly respond to and claim multiple or mixed format expectations. From performance to the moving image to painting, sculpture and the many constellations in between, artistic practice is being reshaped in challenging and dynamic ways. The Walker leads in the field by hosting artists that cross new boundaries, revise conventions, and question and recast our understanding of contemporary life through their work. It is a thrilling opportunity to further develop the Walker’s distinguished programs and collection in collaboration with artists, audiences, and colleagues.”
In Meade’s first year at the Walker, he oversaw the presentation of Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art, an exhibition that examined the history of black performance in visual art from the 1960s through the present, including nine in-gallery performances and a wide-ranging series of talks in collaboration with Theaster Gates’ installation See, Sit, Sup, Sip, Sing: Holding Court.
Working closely with Walker Senior Curator of Film/Video Sheryl Mousley and Bentson Film Scholar, Isla Leaver-Yap, Meade oversaw the launch of a new series of moving image commissions from a selection of leading artist filmmakers, including new works from New York-based photographer Moyra Davey and Welsh artist James Richards set to premiere at the end of May. Inviting a new generation of artists—including Uri Aran, Shahryar Nashat, Seth Price, and Leslie Thornton—to draw inspiration from unique access to signature figures within the Walker’s Collection—including Derek Jarman, Bruce Conner, and Marcel Broodthaers—these newly commissioned works will screen online for a limited period before entering the Walker collection and being made available for future presentations.
Under Meade’s direction, future projects include the first U.S. solo exhibition of German artist Andrea Büttner this fall (November 21, 2015–April, 24, 2016), and Merce Cunningham: Common Time, a major touring survey of work by Merce Cunningham and his dynamic range of collaborations across artistic disciplines, opening at the Walker in early 2017. Showcasing the complete scenic and costume archive of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, the exhibition will explore the unique working methods and profound influence of an artist whose singular approach to sharing a “common time” revolutionized dance and who remains one of the most inspirational models of artistic production in the 20th century. Featuring significant works from Charles Atlas, Tacita Dean, Jasper Johns, Isamu Noguchi, Robert Morris, Bruce Nauman, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, and Andy Warhol, among others, the exhibition will extend the trajectory of interdisciplinary influence through to the present, working closely with Walker Senior Curator of Performing Arts, Philip Bither, to include gallery commissions that incorporate leading voices in contemporary choreography and musical composition.
Meade received a Warhol Curatorial research fellowship that will help support a curatorial conference this fall that brings together colleagues from both visual arts and performing arts to address questions fundamental to all museums that present, collect, and archive live performance.
Meade has previously been a curator at the Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, and SculptureCenter, New York, where he led exhibitions including Scene, Hold, Ballast, with David Maljkovic and Lucy Skaer, and A Voyage of Growth and Discovery with Mike Kelley and Michael Smith, as well as a range of solo and group exhibitions, including Time Again and Knight’s Move, a survey of new sculpture in New York. Recent exhibitions also include Coming to Reality (multiple venues Prague, Czech Republic), including a performance commission with Eva Kotátková at the National Gallery, as well as From the Sky with Laure Prouvost at Danspace Project (New York). His writing has appeared in Artforum, Bidoun, Mousse, Modern Painters, Parkett, and Spike Quarterly, among other publications. He was the recipient of an Arts Writer Grant from Creative Capital and the Andy Warhol Foundation. Recent and forthcoming catalog writing includes essays on Dieter Roth, Camille Henrot, Nina Canell and Laure Prouvost, as well as Uri Aran and Elad Lassry for the Kunsthalle Zürich (JRP/Ringier), and Mark Morrisroe for the Fotomuseum Winterthur (JRP/Ringier).
Meade holds an M.A. in Curatorial Studies from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Columbia University. He has been a faculty member at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, and in the M.F.A. program for Visual Arts, Columbia University, and has participated in symposia, talks, and events at numerous international venues.
In 2015, the Walker Art Center celebrates the 75th anniversary of its founding as a public art center dedicated to presenting and collecting the art of our times with a series of institutional initiatives, exhibitions and events beginning in the fall of 2014 and extending into 2015. Although it was more than 125 years ago when lumber baron Thomas Barlow (T.B.) Walker built a room onto his Minneapolis house, mounted his 20 favorite paintings on the wall, and opened his door to the community, it was in the year 1940 that the Walker’s contemporary-focused mission to be a catalyst for the creative expression of artists and active engagement of audiences was born. Supported by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Walker became a public art center presenting the work of living artists, forming a collection beyond the 19th century holdings of its founder to the multidisciplinary works of today’s artists. Daniel Defenbacher, the Walker’s first director, set forth the concept of a multidisciplinary center for the WPA, and in 1939, embarked on the largest community art center launch of his career: the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. On January 4, 1940, the new Walker Art Center opened its doors.
On the occasion of its 75th anniversary, the Walker is undertaking several institutional initiatives including a campus renovation, a capital campaign and staff appointments. A robust program of exhibitions is planned including the major historical surveys International Pop and Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia, and the contemporary solo exhibitions of contemporary artists Liz Deschenes, Andrea Büttner and Lee Kit. Two exhibitions, Art at the Center: 75 Years of Walker Collections and 75 Gifts for 75 Years, underscore gifts and acquisitions that have consistently breached the boundaries of media or disciplines. These initiatives build on the rich traditions of the Walker as a center for cross-disciplinary programming and community engagement, started by Defenbacher in 1940.