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Arts / Museums

Dallas Museum of Art Makes a Transformative Hire

Surprising New Leader Choice Signals a Bold Change

BY // 07.15.16

In transformative news for the American museum world, and most notably in Texas, the Dallas Museum of Art made an unexpected vital hire on Thursday. Dr. Agustín Arteaga, currently director of the Museo Nacional de Arte (MUNAL), becomes the DMA’s new Eugene McDermott Director. Dr. Arteaga assumes his new duties on September 1, taking over the post vacant since the museum’s previous director, Dr. Maxwell Anderson, resigned in September 2015.

In a city not known for its diversity, the choice of the new director comes as surprising news, a development that would perhaps be more expected at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), with its celebrated commitment to modern and contemporary Latin American art. Consequently, Dr. Arteaga’s hire by the DMA should be considered an out-of-the-box coup, a commitment by board trustees to stretch the role and vision of the museum, whose most recent shows about the southern continent have looked at pre-Columbian work, including the 2012 blockbuster “The Legacy of the Plumed Serpent in Ancient Mexico.”

The new director is a bilingual, versatile curator and scholar with an encyclopedic knowledge encompassing everything from Old Masters to Pop artists such as Warhol and Lichtenstein. Born in Mexico City, the mid-career Arteaga was originally trained as an architect. He has headed the Museo de Arte de Ponce (MAP) in Puerto Rico, and was the founding director of Argentina’s acclaimed Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA) Fundación Costantini. (The MALBA and the MFAH enjoy close relations, and have collaborated on exhibitions in Houston, most recently the 2013-2014 “Antonio Berni: Juanito and Ramona” and “Modern and Contemporary Masterworks from MALBA-Fundación Costantini” in 2012.)

The DMA’s new museum director spoke with News Mexico during the run of one of the international, encyclopedic blockbusters he organized for the Museo Nacional de Arte (MUNAL) in Mexico City, “Yo, el Rey” in 2015, which broke attendance records. Should we expect exhibitions of this type in Dallas?

He is also conversant with today’s art stars such as Guillermo Kuitca and 20th-century innovators such as Brazilian Lasar Segall.

Dr. Arteaga is known to be an audience builder; he substantially increased museum attendance at his current post by 30 percent. He has also demonstrated adept administrative abilities, and at one time in the 1990s supervised a network of more than 20 museums across Mexico. He has been skillful at wrangling individual and corporate sponsorships, which are not typical of the Mexico museum world.

Surprisingly, he is also a Francophile, and his résumé includes a two-year guest curator stint at Paris’ Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume. Thanks to his Parisian turn, he received the tony honor of Chevalier in the French Republic’s Order of Arts and Letters in 1998.

Additionally, and intriguingly, Arteaga possesses expertise with capital campaigns, leading the MALBA in Buenos Aires from idea to institution, a role that included overseeing the design and construction of a new $30-million museum building in 2002. Will an addition be in the DMA’s future to match the building boom going on in Houston at the MFAH and Menil Collection?

The new director is married to Carlos Gonzalez-Jaime, who will be joining him in Dallas.

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