Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Olga Viso to leave the Hirshhorn

Came home tonight to find an email from yesterday from Hirshhorn director and my good friend Olga Viso announcing that she will soon be leaving as director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in order to take over the reigns of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

And today Carol Vogel in the New York Times has a very readable story on Viso and the move to Minneapolis:

"After a six-month international search, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis said yesterday that it had appointed Olga Viso, director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, as its new director.

Ms. Viso, who is to assume the post in January, succeeds Kathy Halbreich, who has led the Walker for 16 years and is retiring in November."
Viso has been at the Hirshhorn for over a decade, working her way up the ranks to her current position. In a story in the WaPo, Blake Gopnik writes:
During her 12 years at the Hirshhorn, first in various curatorial positions, then for two years as deputy director under Ned Rifkin and finally as director, she has had a notable commitment to experimental, even difficult, contemporary art...

Coming seasons at the Hirshhorn, planned during her tenure, are notable for their lack of easy crowd-pleasers and for a commitment to investigations of some central issues in contemporary art...

Viso's time as director coincided with a particularly troubled period in Smithsonian history, culminating in an accounting scandal that led to the resignation of Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small in March. Viso feels she was able to keep momentum going and morale strong at the Hirshhorn "despite the troubles that the Smithsonian has faced." Brougher said she kept the Hirshhorn staff from feeling the effects of those "storms."
Olga Viso's move is a loss for the Hirshhorn and also for Washington, and a terrific coup and brilliant move for the Walker.

Olga Viso Viso not only steered the Hirshhorn confidently during the turbulent period described by Gopnik, but also took the Hirshhorn to a new level in the arena of contemporary art, bringing to Washington world-class artists and exhibitions that brought the nation's capital back into the forefront of the contemporary art dialogue.

And during her period as curator for the museum, she not only brought us great exhibitions such as the long-awaited retrospective of Cuban American artist Ana Mendieta, but also became the first Hirshhorn curator and director to begin looking to the museum's own backyard for Washington area artists, and the first museum director to actually make an effort to visit local galleries and meet local gallerists and artists.

She leaves behind a city brimming with new art galleries opening every other month and joining established and emerging art spaces, and a vibrant, ever-changing art scene full of talented artists, a few barely emerging collectors, a set of terrific museums and in spite of a moribund paper press, a savvy (mostly online) art press.

And she will bring to chilly Minneapolis not only an international reputation and flair, and an enviable work ethic and vision, but also the deep elegance, presence and good looks that come from her solid Cuban genes.

Awright, so I am a little prejudiced in the last few words.

We will miss you Olga.