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Detroit Institute of Arts Names New Curator of Contemporary Art

Mary Stryker reports in the Detroit Free Press that Laurie Ann Farrell has been appointed as the new curator of contemporary art at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Farrell joins two new assistant curators: Lucy Mensah, previously a fellow in the modern and contemporary department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and Taylor Renee Aldridge, a Detroit-based cultural critic and cofounder of the online journal Arts Black. This is the first time in more than fifteen years that the contemporary department at DIA has had a staff this large, as posts remained unfilled for some time after the 2015 departure of associate curator Becky Hart to the Denver Art Museum and of New York–based part-time adjunct curator Mark Rosthenthal, who curated the exhibition “Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit” in the spring of 2015.

Museum director Salvador Salort-Pons is making contemporary art a priority for the institution going forward: “We need to catch up . . . Contemporary art is what resonates best with our community right now. We have a great collection of contemporary art that needs to be exposed and displayed in ways that are relevant.” He added, “Laurie will be the public face of contemporary art at the DIA. She’ll work with local and international artists. She knows how to work collaboratively, and she has great ideas and connections.”

Farrell comes to DIA after ten years at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, where she oversaw the school’s galleries not only in Savannah and Atlanta but also in southern France and Hong Kong. She organized shows there with artists such as Carrie Mae Weems, Alfredo Jaar, and Xu Bing. Farrell has a master’s degree in art history and theory from the University of Arizona and was formerly a curator of contemporary art at the Museum for African Art in New York from 1998 to 2007. Among the exhibitions she worked on there was the highly regarded “Looking Both Ways: Art of the Contemporary African Diaspora,” which traveled to the Cranbrook Art Museum in 2004.

Farrell will begin her new post on December 5.