Yale Museum of British Art Chooses Dia Curator as Its Director

Yale Museum of British Art Chooses Dia Curator as Its Director

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The Yale Center for British Art announced Wednesday that it had named Courtney J. Martin as its new director. Ms. Martin is currently deputy director and chief curator of the Dia Art Foundation in New York.

In an interview, Ms. Martin described the appointment as an “opportunity to expand what we think of as British art, not only for the 20th and 21st centuries, but for all periods.” One of her priorities as director will be to reposition British art within a global framework of migration and cultural exchange.

“The museum has amazing collections of art that might have once been described as coming from the Commonwealth, and I would really like to show more works that come from the South Pacific and South Asia,” she said. “There are notable links between British artists working outside of the country and artists born in those places.”

Ms. Martin has deep experience with British art, particularly of the postcolonial era. She has written extensively on the Pakistani-born artist and editor Rasheed Araeen, and in 2012 she organized an exhibition of the Guyanese-British painter Frank Bowling at Tate Britain in London.

The new role at the Yale Center in New Haven, the biggest repository for British art outside Britain, is a homecoming for Ms. Martin, who earned her Ph.D. in art history at Yale, writing her dissertation on British art of the 1970s. During her graduate years she helped organize “Art and Emancipation in Jamaica” (2007), an acclaimed exhibition at the Center timed to the bicentennial of the abolition of the British slave trade. She has also edited several books, including “Four Generations: The Joyner Giuffrida Collection of Abstract Art” (2016) and “Lawrence Alloway: Critic and Curator” (2015).

Ms. Martin came to Dia in 2015 as an adjunct curator, organizing the first New York exhibition in over two decades of the painter Robert Ryman. She became chief curator two years later, and she and her team gradually expanded the foundation’s purview to include a fuller range of abstract artists of the 1960s and ’70s. Artists exhibited at Dia in New York City and in Beacon, N.Y., during her tenure included Dorothea Rockburne, Mary Corse and Nancy Holt. A major presentation by Sam Gilliam, the Washington-based painter, opens this summer.

Ms. Martin will begin her new position in July. She succeeds Amy Meyers, who has led the Center since 2002 and who oversaw the renovation of its renowned building, designed by the modernist architect Louis Kahn. The museum reopened in 2016 after a year-and-a-half closure.

[Read more about the Louis Kahn building here.]

Asked how the museum might examine the effect of Britain’s chaotic efforts to exit the European Union, Ms. Martin insisted on the long view: “I started working on Britain in the mid-1990s, and that, too, was a period of great reform and transition for the country. The earlier research I did on art after 1968 also echoes this instability. I have to take a historical eye — I see it as a challenge, but also a moment to be reckoned with.”

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