For nearly a year, MoMA PS1 has been looking for a candidate to fill its top job. Now, the Queens museum has announced that it has found its new director in Connie Butler, chief curator at Los Angeles’s Hammer Museum at UCLA since 2013. She will take up the post in September.
“I’m very excited to meet and get to know the staff and to thoroughly dive into the work that they have been doing, and really to also draw on the many ingredients that I think are there in MoMA PS1’s great history,” Butler told Artnet News by phone.
“Connie Butler is widely known and admired as a trailblazing curator and scholar, as well as a dedicated mentor to rising museum professionals,” MoMA director Glenn Lowry said in a statement. “With her close working relationships with artists, both established and emerging, and her long-standing connections to MoMA and New York, we know she will advance MoMA PS1 in all aspects of its ambitious program. I look forward to working with her again.”
The job was previously held by Kate Fowle, who resigned in summer 2022, just three years into her tenure, without citing a reason for the departure.
Asked to name the greatest challenge facing the institution, she said, “There are two significant challenges that are also opportunities: first, a gorgeous historic building that needs attending to to make it more accessible for its local community and the New York audience. The second, which is an exciting one, is that there are so many great spaces in New york City doing great work and [the challenge is] to think about how MoMA PS1 fits into that ecosystem and what distinguishes it and makes it essential viewing for New Yorkers.”
Butler has been part of Los Angeles’s rise as a center for the making and viewing of contemporary art, partly through the Hammer’s recurring exhibition “Made in L.A.,” which focuses on practitioners in the region. She curated the second edition, in 2014.
Feminism has been a major focus for the curator, and she has done much work to recognize women artists. “I have always honestly felt the deep rage that comes from being a woman growing up and becoming an adult under patriarchy in the United States,” she said in a 2021 interview with UCLA.
She co-organized the show “WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution” at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, where she was curator from 1996 to 2006 (it traveled to MoMA PS1 in 2008). She also co-organized shows devoted to Adrian Piper (2018), Lygia Clark (2014), and Marisa Merz (2017), and co-edited the 2010 volume Modern Women: Women Artists at the Museum of Modern Art.
Butler has contributed to several important exhibitions at MoMA PS1 in the past. She served as part of the curatorial team for “Greater New York” (2010), and co-organized major exhibitions including “Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960–1980” (2012) and “Mike Kelley” (2013). She is also well-acquainted with PS1’s partner institution, having served as chief curator of drawings at the Museum of Modern Art from 2006 to 2013.
Before joining MoCA L.A. in 1996, Butler got her start at the Des Moines Art Center; the Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College, State University of New York; and Artists Space in New York.
At the Hammer, Butler has organized distinctive shows, such as “Joan Didion: What She Means” (co-curated with Hilton Als in 2022-23). Her work has been recognized with the Audrey Irmas Award for Curatorial Excellence from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, and she was a 2020 fellow at the Center for Curatorial Leadership.