By Elliot J. Reichert
Last week, James Rondeau became the twelfth president and director of the Art Institute of Chicago after eighteen years with the museum. Formerly the chair and curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Rondeau sat down with Newcity at the end of his first day as director to share his vision for leading the museum. Diversity, data, digital access and building expansion were among the topics we discussed.
It’s your first day at the director’s desk, but you’ve been with the Art Institute for eighteen years. Given your long tenure with the museum, you must have a good sense of how the institution operates. Considering that, do you already have a sense what your immediate priorities will be?
It’s in a large part about transitioning from a fairly specialized area of interest, which was being in charge of modern and contemporary art, and expanding that to take on the full scope of the encyclopedic mission. It’s moving from being curatorially specific to being curatorially general, and moving from a role of actually executing curatorial projects to one of supporting other’s projects. In this transition, I am very mindful of what the mandate is.
I feel very lucky that in eighteen years I’ve had the opportunity to work for three different directors: James Wood, James Cuno and Douglas Druick. I’ve really seen how different people do it differently. I’ve almost been able to apprentice under three very different approaches and I think I’ve been able over the years to synthesize in my mind what those approaches entail. I have also seen how expectations in the local community, the national community, the international community have changed over almost two decades since I’ve been at this museum. All this has informed my perspective. So, it’s day one, but I feel like there is an extraordinary continuity from what I’ve been learning and seeing here all these years to what I start to do today. [Read more…]