Darsie Alexander, Senior Curator and Department Head of Contemporary Art at The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA), has been named Chief Curator at the Walker Art Center effective November 10. She succeeds Philippe Vergne who left the museum in August to become director of New York’s Dia Art Foundation. As the Walker’s Chief Curator, Alexander will work with the Director to bring the institution’s broad multidisciplinary vision to life by overseeing the exhibitions, visual arts, design, performing arts, film/video, and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden programs.
“Darsie has curated both historically important and up-to-the-moment exhibitions and will bring a dynamic curatorial perspective to the Walker,” said Walker director Olga Viso. “As a colleague, I have admired her creativity and ambitious exhibitions, most notably SlideShow, lauded by many in the contemporary art field as a landmark exhibition on post-1965 art. Having successfully expanded the contemporary program within an encyclopedic institution, I know that within the Walker, which is clearly committed to the present, Darsie will thrive nurturing new art across the creative disciplines represented here. I am pleased to have her join the Walker and continue to push our interdisciplinary mandate forward.”
The Walker is distinctive for its global and farsighted exhibitions and programs, featuring the work of today’s most innovative artists. (Recent landmark exhibitions have included Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love; Frida Kahlo; and Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes.) The Walker is renowned for its multidisciplinary vision: the Walker collection and its exhibitions feature works by both modern masters and artists at the dawn of their careers; its commissioning and presentation of contemporary music, dance, and theater works make it a major laboratory for the live arts; and its wide-reaching film program presents the best of world cinema, indie film, and experimental expressions.
”I am delighted by the opportunity to contribute to such a vital institution at this key moment in its history,” said Alexander. “The Walker has played an essential role in introducing leading artists and concepts into the field, and I look forward to advancing its unique character as a truly integrated organization committed to contemporary art in its many dynamic permutations.”
Alexander became Senior Curator and Department Head of Contemporary Art at the Baltimore Museum of Art in 2005. She began her museum career as a photography curator working first as assistant curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1998–2000) and subsequently as associate curator at The Baltimore Museum of Art (2000–2005), where she focused on building the contemporary works on paper collection.
While at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Alexander curated the critically acclaimed SlideShow (2005), the first major exhibition to explore the history of projected slides in post-1965 art. The exhibition brought together rarely seen slide works by pivotal artists such as Dan Graham, Marcel Broodthaers, and James Coleman in a series of 19 installations, ranging from single-carousel works to more cinematic presentations using multiple projectors, dissolving images, and soundtracks. The exhibition was widely praised for revealing the ongoing impact of these early media experiments on contemporary art and installation, as well as for its art historical acumen.
Most recently Alexander organized the major retrospective and publication Franz West, To Build a House You Start with the Roof: Work, 1972–2008 (opening October 12, 2008, at the Baltimore Museum of Art). An Austrian artist whose international renown and influence on a younger generation of artists are widely acknowledged, West’s singular practice has resulted in one of the most remarkable bodies of work produced since the 1960s; the exhibition features his innovations in sculpture, design, and works on paper—ranging from early interactive works from the 1970s to his aluminum and epoxy objects that dramatize their surroundings through their outsized scale and bold colors. Alexander worked closely with West on the selection, conceptualization, and installation of the 120+ works in the exhibition. While at the BMA, she also curated Robert Motherwell Meanings of Abstraction (2006); Parallel Tracks Common Places (2003); and jointly organized Mechanical Form/Mechanical Vision (2002).
As a major champion for new works and curatorial experimentation, Alexander worked actively to enhance the BMA’s contemporary holdings; key works to enter the collection under her tenure include Anthony McCall’s Line Describing a Cone (1973); the outdoor sculptures Swinner and Violetta (both 2005) by Franz West; photographs by Rineke Dijkstra, Bertien van Manen, and Philip-Lorca diCorcia; and Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn’s Chandelier with Hands (2006), a piece that served as a springboard for the exhibition Ripple Effect, which explored the common themes and iconographies found in historic works by artists including Albrecht Dürer, Andy Warhol, and William Klein. In addition, Alexander created the BMA’s Front Room space, a gallery designated for short-term artist projects and curatorial initiatives in 2006. The Front Room has featured presentations of work by Ellsworth Kelly, Luisa Lambri, Dan Steinhilber, Rachel Harrison, and Dieter Roth. With Johns Hopkins University professor Michael Fried she has moderated an ongoing series of conversations with major figures in contemporary photography, including Jeff Wall and Tacita Dean. Alexander has also written extensively on performance art, conceptualism, and new media. Select publications in which her work is featured include HamsterWheel (“Franz West”), Venice Biennale, 2007; Singular Images (“Nan Goldin: The Hug”), Tate Modern, 2005; Work Ethic (“Reluctant Witness: Photography and Documentation in 1960s and 1970s Art”), Penn State University Press/BMA/Tate Modern, 2005; Parallel Tracks/Common Places, Baltimore Museum of Art, 2002; Open Ends (“Sets & Situations”), Museum of Modern Art, 2000; and Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Museum of Modern Art, 1997.
While at the Museum of Modern Art Alexander received the Lee-Tenenbaum Award for her exhibition Posed to Unposed: Encounters with the Camera (1999), and organized numerous exhibitions, including Sets and Situations (2000–2001); New Photography 14: Jeanne Dunning, Olafur Eliasson, Rachel Harrison, Sam Taylor-Wood (1998–1999); and The Clutter of Happenstance: The Photographs of Robert Cumming (1998). She also served as the photography specialist for Modern Starts: MoMA 2000.
A graduate of Bates College (1988), Alexander earned her MA in art history from Williams College (1991). She was on the 2006 advisory board for the Lucie Awards and participates regularly as a guest juror and portfolio reviewer for national exhibitions and events. She is a visiting critic for the University of Pennsylvania’s MFA program and serves on the Public Art Commission for the City of Baltimore.