The new director of MoMA PS1 resigns

Kate Fowle, who became director from MoMA PS1 in 2019 and barely had a chance to lead the museum in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, ...


Kate Fowle, who became director from MoMA PS1 in 2019 and barely had a chance to lead the museum in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, abruptly announced on Friday that she was leaving effective July 15 from the museum in Long Island City, Queens.

“It has been an amazing opportunity to lead MoMA PS1 over the past (almost) three years and to work with all of you alongside our Board of Trustees, patrons and funders,” he said. she said in an email to staff. “I want you to know that I have deep respect and admiration for all of you, and am incredibly proud of all the work we’ve done together.”

She gave no reason for leaving and declined requests for comment. But a person with knowledge of the situation, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak publicly, said Fowle had recently expressed difficulties managing her work during a meeting with the president of the museum, Sarah Arisonand Glenn D. Lowry, director of MoMA.

The MoMA PS1 nevertheless carried out its service gala, which took place on May 18 and honored Agnes Gund, former president of MoMA PS1, who continues to serve on the museum’s and MoMA’s Board of Trustees. It was the first time the gala was held in the courtyard of MoMA PS1.

Just two months ago, an interview with the New York TimesFowle had laid out an ambitious plan to create a distinct identity for his museum, which focused on outreach to communities surrounding Queens, emphasizing social justice issues, and giving the museum a website independent of MoMA.

In a statement, Arison called Fowle “a talented curator and director.”

“Kate piloted innovative models of community engagement, diversified the uses of the building and its courtyard to connect more deeply with the communities of Queens and New York, and strengthened PS1’s engagement and role as artist-centric institution,” added Arison. “We all have so much admiration and respect for Kate – including her incredible work ethic and artistic vision.”

Fowle said in her team memo that she will continue to co-curate an exhibition of recent works by Daniel Lind-Ramos, the Puerto Rican artist, slated to open next April “and j look forward to working with all of you to move this project forward.

An interim management team will be led by Jose Ortiz, the assistant manager; Molly Kurzius, Director of External Affairs; and Ruba Katrib, curator at the museum, under the direction of Arison and Lowry.

“I am grateful for all she has done for MoMA PS1 and wish her well in all that she does next,” Lowry said in an email.

“She put the community and the artists first,” Gund said in an interview. “She tried to make it work.”

Gund had told The Times in April that she would like to see MoMA PS1 become independent from MoMA. Fowle said at the time that she didn’t share that view, though she disagreed with the analogy that her institution is the child and MoMA is the parent. “I see the relationship from a collective impact perspective,” she said.

But people involved with the two museums say there have long been tensions between the two institutions, since MoMA is more powerful and retains control of PS1.

MoMA’s operating budget is considerably larger—nearly $300 million—and it contributes 25% of PS1’s $8 million budget, including 10% in operational support and 15% in discretionary donations from PS1 trustees. MoMA and affiliated groups.

PS1 – which since 1971 has focused on experimental contemporary art – in turn offers MoMA an additional programmatic dimension.

Those who worked closely with the British-born Fowle were surprised by the announcement. “I’m surprised,” said Jimmy Van Bramer, the former chairman of the New York City Council’s cultural affairs committee. “I thought she was a real thought leader and had done great things with the museum. I will definitely miss her.

Came to MoMA PS1 since Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow, where she was chief curator, Fowle was the first director appointed from outside the museum. His predecessor, Klaus Biesenbach, started out as a curator there in 1995 and 2010. resumed of the museum’s founder, Alanna Heiss. Called Center d’art contemporain PS 1 since its creation in 1976, the museum merged in 2000 with the MoMA and changed name in 2010 at MoMA PS1.

Fowle, who rose to the post of director just before the pandemic, has had to deal with the financial losses that have tested all cultural institutions during the lockdown. MoMA PS1 had to reduce its staff from 64 to 17. (It was later increased to 55.)

In taking the museum in a more progressive direction, Fowle was widely seen as a marked departure from Biesenbach, who gave the museum celebrity cachet.

Local activists said they appreciate MoMA PS1’s growing openness to social causes, namely its creation of the Homeroom Gallery, an exhibition space curated by community groups. Fowle also contacted the Queensbridge housesthe largest social housing project in the country.

She had overseen an effort to make the museum more physically welcoming to the community, creating a break in the exterior walls and adding amenities that will allow the courtyard to remain open when the building is closed. The city approved $9 million in capital funding last year for the project.

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