Above: Portrait of Walker curator, Philippe Vergne in the Walker exhibition "Heart of Darkness." Photo by Tom Wallace.
The Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art in the Northern city of Porto, Portugal, has hired Philippe Vergne as their next executive director. A known person around the Twin Cities, Vergne worked for the Walker Art Center twice, first in a curatorial capacity from 1997-2004 and then as deputy director from 2006-2008.
In Portugal, he will fill a vacancy left by curator João Ribas, who left the Serralves last September after only eight months after claiming that the museum censored photographs from a retrospective by Robert Mapplethorpe, who is famous for nudes and documentation of New York’s S&M scene. The museum denied the claim.
According to reports from ArtNet, Vergne was hired in part to “restore calm to the museum and gardens” after Ribas’ departure.
An international curator and director, Vergne joined the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 2014. After a dramatic dismissal of LA MOCA's chief curator Helen Molesworth in March 2018, the museum and Vergne mutually decided not to renew Vergne’s contract, which was set to expire in March 2019. Vergne stayed on at the museum for almost another year, going on the job market himself while the search for his replacement went underway.
Vergne worked for the Walker in two capacities, leaving twice, first in 2004 to become director of a new contemporary art museum in Paris being built by French billionaire Francois Pinault that fell through and then moved to Venice. He returned to the Walker shortly after for a two-year stint, departing in 2008 to become the director of Dia Art Foundation in Beacon, New York.