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New RISD Museum Director Starts in September

06/22/2011

The RISD Museum has appointed John W. Smith of the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art as its new director, effective this fall. In his current position at the Smithsonian, Smith has led several initiatives to increase the Archives’ visibility and dynamism, including expanding its exhibitions and publications program, undertaking a major project to digitize the collections and incorporating the contributions of contemporary artists. He also raised nearly $15 million in private and foundation support and oversaw the acquisition of the Leo Castelli Gallery archive, which includes works collected by the art dealer who championed such major artists as Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol.

“John is an admired leader, a skilled fundraiser and is passionate about connecting people with art in meaningful ways,” says William Tsiaras, incoming chair of the Museum Board of Governors. “We’re thrilled to bring him to Providence this fall.”

John  W. Smith
New RISD Museum Director John W. Smith. Photo by Tony Powell

“I’ve been a great admirer of Rhode Island School of Design and the City of Providence for a very long time,” Smith said in a recent interview with the Providence Journal. He also told the Boston Globe that he is looking forward to tapping into the intellectual and creative resources offered by the Museum's connection to RISD. “The breadth and quality of [the museum’s] collections, gifted staff and connection to one of the world’s leading schools of art and design provide limitless opportunities for fresh and innovative programming,” he said. “I look forward to working with the Board of Governors, the School and the greater Providence community to create an exciting new chapter in the Museum’s long and distinguished history.”

Prior to his position at the Archives of American Art, Smith served for more than a decade at The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, most recently as assistant director for collections, exhibitions and research. Earlier in his career, he also worked as chief archivist at the Art Institute of Chicago, as a visiting archivist at the Royal Opera House in London and as founding curator of special collections and archives at the Chicago Park District.

As a curator, Smith has organized exhibitions – with accompanying catalogues – focused on Patti Smith, Andy Warhol and Turner prizewinner Grayson Perry. His exhibition Possession Obsession: Andy Warhol and Collecting traveled to the RISD Museum in 2002.

“We are delighted to welcome John Smith as the new director of the RISD Museum,” notes Merrill Sherman, chair of RISD’s Board of Trustees. “[His] contemporary flair and sensitivity to the past are sure to thrive here.

Smith joins the RISD Museum at a time of increased attendance, new programs and recently restored galleries showcasing ancient, medieval and early Renaissance art. The Museum also recently developed a pilot website for mobile devices and launched an ambitious exhibition program that includes the major show Made in the UK: Contemporary Art from the Richard Brown Baker Collection, which opens on September 23, 2011 and continues through January 8, 2012

“I look forward to John's joining our RISD and Providence communities,” noted President John Maeda in an email to the RISD community announcing the appointment. “I know he will make many significant contributions.” Smith officially begins his new position in mid-September and will report directly to Tsiaris and the Museum Board of Governors.

related links: 
RISD Museum
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution


tags: RISD Museum

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The façade of the Chace Center, a new multipurpose hub that opened
in 2008, offers an interesting contrast to the historic campus
buildings that surround it.