Mónica Ramírez-Montagut, a veteran curator from Mexico, will be the new director of the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, N.Y., the museum announced Wednesday.
Ramírez-Montagut, the director of the Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University, fills the leadership position left vacant in December when Kelly Taxter announced her departure after less than a year in the role.
“This is a dream come true,” Ramírez-Montagut said in an interview, adding that she plans on deepening the museum’s programming “through a more diverse lens while simultaneously leveraging the arts to serve our immediate communities through exhibitions that engage social justice.”
Ramírez-Montagut is known for work like a major retrospective of the architect Zaha Hadid in 2006 that she helped organize while she was an assistant curator at the Guggenheim Museum (from 2005-08). She also curated a traveling show in 2019 that included artworks inspired by the stories of women incarcerated in Louisiana’s prison system.
“She has warmth and management experience,” Alexandra Stanton, a lawyer and co-chair of the Parrish board, said in an interview, adding, “She is as committed to stewarding the museum itself as she is to serving our communities.”
Regional institutions like the Parrish, a champion of Long Island artists, have struggled to recruit and retain talent amid the coronavirus pandemic, as visitors have come to expect their museums to act more like community centers, with a greater emphasis on local programming and representation. Over the last couple of years, the Parrish Museum has attempted to make inroads with the growing working-class Latino population in Suffolk County, home to its sleek 34,400-square-foot facility, situated on 14 acres.
The museum also has a longstanding relationship with the Organización Latino-Americana (OLA), a group committed to promoting the welfare of Latino and Hispanic people on Long Island’s East End. Later this month, the museum will partner with the nonprofit on a Latin dance party, and in September will collaborate on the OLA Film Festival. New exhibitions are spotlighting contributions from Black artists like Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Torkwase Dyson and Hank Willis Thomas. The museum also expects to diversify its board; currently, 14 of its 16 members are white. One board member of color is being appointed soon, and two or three more people of color are expected to be named to the board over the summer.
Changes at the Parrish come as the Hamptons arts scene has expanded. As vacation homes became full-time residences during the pandemic, blue-chip galleries from Manhattan created outposts. And even as some of their wealthy clients returned to Manhattan, those galleries have stayed and built summer programs that have been drawing crowds, said Eric Firestone, a gallerist.
Firestone, who opened his namesake East Hampton gallery in 2010, said that over the last two years, the number of galleries in town has grown to about 15 from about six.
So it was surprising last year when Taxter departed. She declined to comment this week on the circumstances of her resignation, but noted in a text message that the museum installed a new board leadership team after she left. “I wish everyone the best as they move forward,” she wrote.
Ramírez-Montagut starts July 8, and her first day will be just before the summer gala, a main fund-raiser for the museum, which this year is celebrating its 125th anniversary. It is also the 10th anniversary of its building, designed by the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. (Tickets for this year’s party start at $1,500 and go as high as $100,000 for groups of 12.)
The new director is also looking forward to meeting the key stakeholders of the Parrish Museum’s future.
The attendees are part of the “strategy to make our visitors and members feel welcome in the museum,” Ramírez-Montagut said. “We need to get back the institutional capacity we had before Covid.”
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