They announced it on Friday: Harry Cooper is the new head of the department of modern and contemporary art at the National Gallery. You can read the NGA press release here.
Cooper comes to us from the Fogg museum at Harvard. He's taking over for Jeffrey Weiss, who left D.C. this spring to take over as the director of the Dia Art Foundation. Weiss's last project for the NGA was the Jasper Johns show earlier this year. I think Cooper has big shoes to fill.
As Tyler noted last month, we've had a serious talent drain this year. We said goodbye to not only Weiss, but also Olga Viso at the Hirshhorn, Jonathan Binstock at the Corcoran, and--also at the NGA--Leah Dickerman, who brought us last year's big Dada show.
And, of course, we have a chief art critic in our daily paper whose fondest hope for the District seems to be for it to never have a flourishing contemporary/avante garde gallery culture. From a live web chat a couple of weeks ago:
It's the museums that are so crucial to the rest of the art scene -- to the making and the selling and the buying. Museums are (or should be) enough above the fray that they can attend to one thing, and one thing only: Looking for the best and most interesting art out there, and putting it on display. That's how the rest of us -- artists, dealers, collectors, critics (ESPECIALLY critics!) -- are most likely to learn what really good art is. So then we can go about our business of making/selling/buying/writing with a better sense of how high the bar can be set for art. Washington is unbelievably lucky to have the museums that it does -- there's not another city its size that can come close. Art scenes where the "Washington model" gets flipped, with a hot market LEADING the museums -- as maybe in New York right now -- get in
Reading this, I just have to assume that Blake doesn't understand how new works of art actually end up in museum collections. Also, as much as I appreciate and enjoy D.C. art galleries, not once have I walked down 14th street and thought to myself: "Thank God this isn't Chelsea."