NEW YORK, January 29, 2014 - On the release of Asia Society's publication Making a Museum in the 21st Century, Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation; Melissa Chiu, director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; and Tom Finkelpearl, commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, assess key issues facing museums today. Asia Society's Interim Vice President for Global Arts and Culture and Museum Director Peggy Loar moderates the conversation. (1 hr., 37 min.)
Richard Armstrong has served as Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation since November 2008. As head of the Guggenheim's executive staff, he focuses on the pivotal role of the New York museum and its collection while also providing leadership and management for the other institutions in the global Guggenheim network and for the foundation's international programs. Armstrong works with senior staff to maximize all aspects of the foundation's operations: permanent collections, exhibition programs, loans, acquisitions, documentation, scholarship, and conservation.
Prior to his appointment at the Guggenheim, Armstrong served at Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, as Curator of Contemporary Art (beginning in 1992), Chief Curator (1995), and Henry J. Heinz II Director (1996-2008). During his twelve years of leadership, the museum added significantly to its collection, acquiring multiple works from the Carnegie International exhibitions, accessioned the vast photographic archive of Charles "Teenie" Harris (one of the most important visual records of African American life in the 20th century), and acquiring through purchase and gift dozens of landmark works of 19th-, 20th-, and 21st-century art (such as Rachel Whiteread's monumental Untitled (Domestic), the first joint acquisition in the Carnegie's history). Under Armstrong's guidance, the Carnegie also built up its curatorial staff, raised major support for its endowment, renovated its Heinz Galleries and Scaife Galleries, and expanded the Heinz Architectural Center.
From 1981 to 1992, Armstrong was a curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where he organized four Whitney Biennials, as well as important exhibitions on subjects such as the work of Richard Artschwager and The New Sculpture 1965-75. In 1980, he served on the Artists Committee to organize the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles. He began his curatorial career at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art in California.
Armstrong serves in an advisory capacity on a number of foundation boards, including the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, Kiev, Ukraine; the Artistic Council, Fondation Beyeler, Basel; the Al Held Foundation, New York; the Judd Foundation; and as Director, Fine Family Foundation, Pittsburgh. Armstrong is also a member of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD).
A native of Kansas City, Missouri, Armstrong graduated from Lake Forest College in Illinois with a bachelor of arts in art history and subsequently studied at the Université de Dijon and the Université de Paris, Sorbonne.
Dr. Melissa Chiu
Dr. Melissa Chiu is Museum Director and Senior Vice President, Global Arts and Cultural Programs, Asia Society in New York responsible for overseeing the programming for museums in New York, Houston and Hong Kong. She was previously Founding Director of the Asia-Australia Arts Centre in Sydney (1996-2001).
As a leading authority on Asian contemporary art, she has organized nearly 30 exhibitions of artists from across Asia including a retrospective by Zhang Huan, a survey of Yoshitomo Nara, and an exhibition of art from China’s Cultural Revolution.
She earned a M.A. in Arts Administration (1994) and a PhD (2005) in Art History and is the author of numerous articles and books including Breakout: Chinese Art Outside China (2007), Chinese Contemporary Art: 7 Things You Should Know (2008), Asian Art Now (Monacelli Press, 2010, co-authored with Benjamin Genocchio) and an anthology Contemporary Art in Asia: A Critical Reader (MIT Press, 2011, co-edited with Benjamin Genocchio). She has served on numerous panels including Pew, Institute of Museum and Library Services and New York State Council on the Arts and currently serves on the board American Association of Museums, and Museums Association of New York.
Tom Finkelpearl is the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. In this role he oversees city funding for nonprofit arts organizations across the five boroughs and directs the cultural policy for the City of New York. Prior to his appointment by Mayor Bill de Blasio, Commissioner Finkelpearl served as Executive Director of the Queens Museum for twelve years starting in 2002, overseeing an expansion that doubled the museum's size and positioning the organization as a vibrant center for social engagement in nearby communities. He also held positions at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, working on the organization's merger with the Museum of Modern Art, and served as Director of the Department of Cultural Affairs Percent for Art program. Based on his public art experience and additional research, he published a book, Dialogues in Public Art (MIT Press), in 2000. His second book, What We Made: Conversations on Art and Social Cooperation (Duke University Press, 2013) examines the activist, participatory, coauthored aesthetic experiences being created in contemporary art. He received a BA from Princeton University (1979) and an MFA from Hunter College (1983).
Peggy Loar is Asia Society's interim vice president for global arts and culture and museum director.
Josette Sheeran is the eleventh Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). She was appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General Jacques Diouf in November 2006, and began her tenure April 2007. Prior to this post, she served as the United States Under Secretary for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs in the State Department since August 2005.