Go Back

Richard Koshalek Named Director of the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Friday, February 27, 2009

Richard Koshalek has been named director of the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, effective April 13.

Koshalek, 67, was president of Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., from 1999 until January 2009. Before that, he served as director of The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles for nearly 20 years. At both institutions, he was noted for his commitment to new artistic initiatives, including commissioned works, scholarly exhibitions and publications and the building of new facilities that garnered architectural acclaim. He worked with architect Frank Gehry on the design and construction of MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary (1983), a renovated warehouse popularly known as the Temporary Contemporary. He also worked with the Japanese architect Arata Isozaki on the museum’s permanent home in Los Angeles (1986).

“Richard Koshalek has vast experience in both the education and museum worlds,” said Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough. “His creativity brought modern and contemporary art to bear on issues of the day and will help the museum and the Institution reach broad audiences in technologically and aesthetically exciting new ways.”

“I am immensely excited to come to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden,” said Koshalek. “This institution, more than most, is at the perfect time and place to make a unique contribution not only to the history of modern and contemporary art, but to the larger appreciation of the role of the arts in society. Given its place in the nation’s capital, as well as its proximity to a peerless range of cultural, diplomatic and civic resources, the Hirshhorn can be a catalyst for new creative and collaborative energy in many arenas.”

As director, deputy director and chief curator of Los Angeles’ MOCA for nearly two decades (1980-1999), Koshalek grew the institution from a staff of three people, no collection and $50,000 into a world-renowned museum with a staff of 75, a collection of 4,000 works (including many intact collections) that often traveled to other museums and a budget of more than $15 million. Under his leadership, MOCA completed multiple capital campaigns and in 1999 had an endowment of nearly $50 million. He also co-curated many major exhibitions, including shows on Ad Reinhardt, Robert Irwin (with Kerry Brougher, currently the acting director of the Hirshhorn) and Richard Serra, as well as “End of the Century: A History of 20th-Century Architecture.”

He began his career at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, serving as registrar, assistant curator and then curator from 1967 to 1972. He served as assistant director of the Visual Arts program at the National Endowment for the Arts for two years (1972-1974) and then moved to Texas to become director of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (formerly the Fort Worth Art Museum) from
1974-1976.

A native of Wausau, Wis., Koshalek earned a bachelor’s degree (1965) in architecture and a master’s degree (1967) in architecture and art history from the University of Minnesota; in addition, he recently received one of the university’s highest honors, the Outstanding Achievement Award. 

Among Koshalek’s professional activities, he has served as chair of the selection committee for the architect (Gehry) of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and he was a member of the committee that selected Herzog and de Meuron for the Tate Modern. He was on the guest faculty for the World Economic Forum in 2002 and 2003, and in 1999, he was made a Chevalier des Arts et Lettres by the French government for his support of French art and architecture.

Koshalek succeeds Olga Viso, the previous director who had been with the Hirshhorn Museum for 12 years. She served as director from 2005 to 2007, when she resigned her post to become the director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Brougher, the deputy director and chief curator of the museum, has served as the museum’s acting director since December 2007. Brougher held several curatorial positions under Koshalek’s direction at MOCA.

About the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is one of the world’s leading museums of international modern and contemporary art. Located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the Hirshhorn is one of 19 Smithsonian Institution museums. The museum opened Oct. 1, 1974, as a result of the efforts and generosity of American entrepreneur and philanthropist Joseph H. Hirshhorn (1899-1981), who donated his collection to the Smithsonian Institution in 1966. Designed by architect Gordon Bunshaft, the museum’s elevated drum-shaped building has 60,000 square feet of exhibition space inside and nearly four acres outside in its two-level Sculpture Garden and plaza. This welcoming, contemplative environment is designed to encourage visitors to connect with art in their own ways.

The museum has 60 staff members, and its fiscal year 2008 budget was $11 million. The museum’s collection of 11,500 objects represents pieces by leading artists from the late 19th century to the present day and includes paintings, sculpture, mixed-media pieces, photography, works on paper, video and film. The Hirshhorn has one of the most comprehensive collections of modern sculpture in the world, with many examples on view indoors and in the Sculpture Garden. Two distinctive series-”Directions,” which explores new work by emerging and established artists, and the Black Box space, which presents recent film and video works by a diverse range of emerging international artists- are examples of the Hirshhorn’s commitment to bringing the newest and best in contemporary art to the public.

< Back to Press Releases

This entry was posted in . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.