This week: The second installment of our pirate radio sessions, recorded live from NADA 2011! We are joined by local heroes The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago curators Michael Darling and Naomi Beckwith.
Naomi Beckwith is a curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Beckwith joined the curatorial staff in May 2011. A native Chicagoan, Beckwith grew up in Hyde Park and attended Lincoln Park High School, going on to receive a BA in history from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She completed an MA with Distinction from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, presenting her master’s thesis on Adrian Piper and Carrie Mae Weems.
Afterward, she was a Helena Rubenstein Critical Studies Fellow at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program in New York. Beckwith was a fall 2008 grantee of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and was named the 2011 Leader to Watch by ArtTable. She serves on the boards of the Laundromat Project (New York) and Res Artis (Amsterdam).
Prior to joining the MCA staff, Beckwith was associate curator at The Studio Museum in Harlem. Preceding her tenure at the Studio Museum, Beckwith was the Whitney Lauder Curatorial Fellow at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, where she worked on numerous exhibitions including Locally Localized Gravity (2007), an exhibition and program of events presented by more than 100 artists whose practices are social, participatory, and communal.
Beckwith has also been the BAMart project coordinator at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and a guest blogger for Art21. She has curated and co-curated exhibitions at New York alternative spaces Recess Activities, Cuchifritos, and Artists Space.
Beckwith curated the exhibition 30 Seconds off an Inch, which was presented by the Studio Museum in Harlem November 12, 2009 – March 14, 2010. Exhibiting artworks by 42 artists of color or those inspired by black culture from more than 10 countries, the show asked viewers to think about ways in which social meaning is embedded formally within artworks.
Michael Darling (born 1968) is the James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (MCA). Darling joined the MCA staff in July 2010.
Darling received his BA in art history from Stanford University, and he received his MA and PhD in art and architectural history from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Darling has worked as an independent writer and curator, contributing essays on art, architecture, and design to publications including Frieze, Art Issues, Flash Art, and LA Weekly. Darling frequently serves as a panelist, lecturer, and guest curator on contemporary art and architecture.
Prior to joining the MCA, Darling was the Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), where he was awarded SAM’s Patterson Sims Fellowship for 2009-10. In 2008, Darling began the program SAM Next, a series of contemporary art exhibitions presenting emerging or underappreciated artists from around the globe. Artist Enrico David, who exhibited as part of SAM Next, has since been nominated for the Turner Prize.
Darling curated the SAM exhibitions Target Practice: Painting Under Attack 1949-78 (June 25 – September 7, 2009), and Kurt (May 13 – September 16, 2010). Target Practice showcased the attacks painting underwent in the years following World War II. Kurt explored Kurt Cobain’s influence on contemporary artists.
Darling was associate curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, before joining SAM. He co-curated The Architecture of R.M. Schindler (2001), which won the International Association of Art Critics “Best Architecture or Design Exhibition” award. The exhibition also won merit awards for interior architecture from the Southern California American Institute of Architects and the California Council of the American Institute of Architects.
The MCA Chicago announced today that Michael Darling, modern and contemporary curator at the Seattle Art Museum, will be its new James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator. Darling will leave the Seattle Art Museum, where he’s worked since 2006, in July. Before that Darling worked at L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Here’s an excerpt from the MCA’s press release:
Madeleine Grynsztejn, Pritzker Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Chicago, announced today that Michael Darling has been appointed the new James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator, concluding a comprehensive international search. Darling is currently the Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) and plans to assume his new responsibilities at the MCA on July 12, 2010.
“Michael Darling is the perfect creative leader to evolve the MCA as a preeminent contemporary art destination in terms of reputation, influence, relevance, and visibility,” said Grynsztejn. “I am looking forward to joining with Michael to realize a compelling new vision for the MCA. We share the same goal to forge an artist-activated platform that engages audiences by producing art, ideas, community, and conversation around the creative process. His exhibitions and acquisitions are always innovative and relevant, yet grounded in a larger art historical framework, and fueled by his distinctive passion, knowledge and integrity.”
Darling said, “I am honored to lead the MCA’s curatorial team and to build on the museum’s momentum. I look forward to actively participating in the cultural community of Chicago — a world-class city with a long-standing appreciation for the vanguard — and balancing a local perspective with a global outlook. I am excited to advance the MCA’s tradition of groundbreaking exhibitions and programming into a 21st-century multidisciplinary museum model.”
And so on, blahbity blahbity press release so on. Although I think this is a fairly boring, business-as-usual kind of pick on the MCA’s part, my view was ameliorated somewhat by reading the glowing praise that respected arts writer Jen Graves of The Stranger has for Darling. She writes:
What distinguished Darling from the others was his genuine commitment to exploring and revealing the connections between here and abroad. He was seemingly at every opening, and his exhibitions and acquisitions reflect that he did not simply live and work here, he thought here.
Grave’s assessment strongly suggests that Darling will not be another “Chicago curator” in name only who dials it in from elsewhere. I’m sure he’ll be good at his job (what constitutes ‘failure’ when it comes to museum curation anyway?), but I find myself caring less and less about who holds what position at big institutions lately. In the three years that I’ve been living in Chicago, I’ve become way more interested in the curatorial programs of Chicago’s college and university spaces and nonprofit art centers, and in the plans and activities of the (relatively) unsung curators and administrators who work there. There’s just more room for interesting failures and fresh insights in those spaces (although they, like any organization, require increased funding, donations, membership and public support to keep doing good work). Maybe it’s just the mood I’m in but…my whole take on the “big news” of today is one big meh.