Press release

Sheena Wagstaff to Head Metropolitan Museum’s New Modern and Contemporary Art Department

19th-Century Art to Join Met’s Department of European Paintings

(New York, January 10, 2012)—Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, announced today the appointment of Sheena Wagstaff to the newly created position of Chairman of the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art. Currently Chief Curator of Tate Modern in London, where for the past decade she has been responsible for programming strategy and planning, she will begin work in her new role at the Metropolitan Museum in late spring. She was formally elected by the Board of Trustees today.

“I am delighted to announce Sheena Wagstaff’s appointment heading the Met’s modern and contemporary program,” stated Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of the Metropolitan Museum, in making the announcement. “With creativity and foresight, Sheena has devised and carried through her large portfolio of responsibilities at Tate Modern, to the enjoyment and edification of millions of visitors. At the Met, she will succeed our esteemed colleague Gary Tinterow in this area, as he assumes the position of Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in late January.

“Along with appointing Sheena to this position,” Mr. Campbell continued, “I am reverting the 19th-century paintings area back to the Department of European Paintings, under the guidance of John Pope-Hennessy Chairman Keith Christiansen, thereby reconfiguring two of our curatorial departments. This shift suits the Museum’s mission at this time, as we recalibrate our program in modern and contemporary art to engage a global approach that will take advantage of our encyclopedic collections. We are also looking forward to operating the nearby Breuer building beginning in 2015 and exploring the possibility of renovating and updating our Lila Acheson Wallace Wing in the main building. I look forward to working closely with Sheena as she develops the strategies and curatorial team to accomplish these exciting challenges over the coming period of transition and beyond.”

As Chief Curator since 2001, Wagstaff devised Tate Modern’s program strategy and forward plan, embracing a broad scope of contemporary artistic practice in alignment with Tate’s collecting strategy to provide a more global account of art. In addition to contributing to Tate’s international monitoring group for modern and contemporary acquisitions, she has been particularly involved with the Middle East and North African Acquisitions Committee, as well as Tate’s broad interests in the U.S., including the Tate’s American Trustees.

Wagstaff has played a key role in the success of Tate Modern’s program by initiating and leading an extensive international program of exhibitions, commissions, and other projects, many in collaboration with other major institutions. She has overseen more than 60 exhibitions initiated by Tate Modern’s curatorial team, ensuring that each is based on original research and scholarship, and that all exhibitions and their accompanying publications contribute new thinking to their subjects in order to become benchmarks for subsequent investigations. These projects have included: Eva Hesse; Barnett Newman; Sigmar Polke; Constantin Brancusi; Robert Frank; Frida Kahlo; August Strindberg; Henri Rousseau; Albers & Moholy Nagy; Wassily Kandinsky; David Smith; Helio Oiticica; Duchamp/Man Ray/Picabia; Rothko; Cildo Meireles; Rodchenko & Popova; Arshile Gorky; Francis Alys; Paul Gauguin; and Joan Miró.

Wagstaff has curated numerous major exhibitions herself, including exhibitions of Edward Hopper, Jeff Wall, and Juan Munoz, as well as a forthcoming Roy Lichtenstein retrospective that she has co-curated with the Art Institute of Chicago.

She also spearheaded the establishment of the turbine hall commissions, which have been central to Tate Modern’s mission to present projects that engage the public both critically and experientially. This series to date has included iconic installations by Olafur Eliasson (commonly known as “The Sun”), Doris Salcedo, Bruce Nauman, Miroslaw Balka, and Ai Weiwei (“Sunflower Seeds”), and the current installation by Tacita Dean. In addition, she inaugurated the performing arts and film programs at Tate Modern and conceived an innovative model of small-scale exhibitions based on bilateral research exchanges with organizations around the world, based in Amman, Kabul, Lagos, Mexico City, Istanbul, and other locations.

Alongside her role as Chief Curator, Wagstaff has been deeply involved over the past five years in the Transforming Tate Modern Project, working within a small core team in direct collaboration with architects Herzog & de Meuron to articulate the strategic vision and spatial design of the new Tate Modern museum building, adjacent to the existing building.

Wagstaff is a graduate in History of Art & Architecture from the University of East Anglia, and subsequently undertook post-graduate curatorial studies in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Program in New York. She has worked for several important institutions over the course of her career, including the Museum of Modern Art at Oxford; the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London; and the Frick Art Center (Pittsburgh), where she was Director of Collections, Exhibitions & Education from 1993 to 1998. In 1998 she joined Tate Britain as Head of Exhibitions & Displays, where she played a key senior role in the transformation of the former Tate Gallery into Tate Britain by devising a new five-year program of exhibitions and collection displays, as well as establishing a new curatorial department.

Among her numerous and wide-ranging civic and professional affiliations, she has been a founding member of the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art’s International Advisory Committee since 2005; a member of the Mayor’s Advisory Board for London’s first festival of contemporary Arab culture (2011); a member of the Design Review Panel for architecture and the built environment within London’s Southwark Council (2006-2008); a founding board member of Bidoun magazine since 2009; and an elected board member of CIMAM, the international committee of museums of modern art within the International Council of Museums (2001-2010).

She has published and lectured widely.

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January 10, 2012

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