Walker Art Center’s chief curator, Darsie Alexander, has been named executive director of the Katonah Museum of Art, a small but wide-ranging institution in Westchester County about 50 miles north of New York City. She starts work there March 1.
During her five-year tenure at the Walker, Alexander made her biggest splash with “Benches & Binoculars,” a whimsical installation of paintings and works-on-paper that were hung floor-to-ceiling in a two story gallery where visitors lounged on couches and peered at the art through binoculars. She brought in film auteur John Waters to guest curate "Absentee Landlord," a provocative redo of the Walker's collection. She also arranged the Walker’s purchase of the 3000-piece archive of the Merce Cunningham dance troupe which includes original objects and canvases by Pop-art stars Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. Her "Internatonal Pop" exhibition, three years-in-the-making, will open at the Walker in 2015.
The Walker has “no immediate plans for a search to fill [Alexander’s] post,” said Ryan French, the museum’s spokesperson. The museum is looking at it’s “overall structure” and considering “a number of different options,” he added.
The Katonah museum, nicknamed KMA, occupies a building designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes whose first and most famous building is the Walker’s 1971 brick-clad wing. Like the Walker, the KMA offers lectures, films, workshops and concerts as well as art exhibitions. Its shows encompass “all cultures and time periods,” however, while the Walker focuses on modern and contemporary art. It attracts about 40,000 visitors annually, compared to the Walker which last year drew 265,000 people to exhibitions and events plus an additional 300,000 to the sculpture garden.
Previously Alexander was senior curator at the Baltimore Museum of Art. She began her career as a photo curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City after earning an M. A. in art history at Williams College. She and her husband David Little, photography curator at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, have two school-age daughters.
Veterans of the commuter-marriage routine, the couple are preparing to resume that life style when Alexander starts the Katonah job.
“I’m delighted for Darsie; it’s a great opportunity for her,” Little said in a phone interview Tuesday.
Asked if his own job was now in play, Little said “No. I’m here and committed here.”