The Walker taps Olga Viso to succeed Kathy Halbreich as director and Halbreich moves on to envision contemporary programming at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art.
Tack on Kaywin Feldman becoming director of the Minneapolis Institute of Art and, even without citing the Rule of Threes, one could spot a trend – the rise of women in leadership at American museums.
Others saw such a trend long before these recent moves. Halbreich and Viso separately commented on the topic, in 2006, to Tyler Green for a Los Angeles Times piece on the emergence of women as museum directors. Viso, 41, comes to the Walker after 12 years with the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the past two as its director.
But dig a little deeper and you’ll see not a trend but an evolutionary progression. While men still outnumber women at the tops of America’s art museums, women are on greater footing at institutions with an exclusive or primary focus on contemporary arts – that is, art created after World War II.
Beyond Halbreich and Viso, who begins at the Walker in January, women hold top leadership posts with at least two dozen contemporary arts institutions, from museums with international reputations to ambitious regional centers.
A partial list of these women and the contemporary art centers they lead:
Hope Alswang – Rhode Island School of Design Museum
Bonnie Clearwater – Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami
Stephanie Conaway – Center of Contemporary Photography, Chicago
Rachael Blackburn Cozad – Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City
Julie Decker – International Gallery of Contemporary Art, Anchorage
Sherri Gelden – Wexner Center for the Arts, at Ohio State University, Columbus
Claudia Gould – Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia
Kay Kallos – Atlanta Contemporary Art Center
Linda Klosky – Center for Contemporary Arts, Santa Fe
Susan Krane – Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
Georgianna Lagoria – The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu
Jill Medvedow – Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
Cydney Payton – Contemporary Art Museum of Denver
Ann Philbin – Hammer Museum, UCLA
Lisa Phillips – New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York City
Raphaela Platow – Contemporary Arts Center of Cincinnati
Marla Price – Museum of Contemporary Art of Fort Worth
Susan Purves – Center on Contemporary Art, Seattle
Virginia Rutter – Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, N.C.
Jill Snyder – Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art