Julián Zugazagoitia begins his post Wednesday, Sept. 1, as the fifth Director & CEO of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. An international scholar, museum director and consultant, he has served for the past seven years as the Director/CEO of El Museo del Barrio in New York.
Already Zugazagoitia has become known among Board of Trustees members and the community as a personable leader who is enthusiastic about the arts. He has pledged to use his first weeks listening and learning about the Museum’s distinguished, encyclopedic collection and getting to know staff, volunteers and donors.
During his first year, Zugazagoitia will explore the most remarkable treasures from the Museum’s 33,500 works of art in a monthly series of Thursday-evening conversations called Art Tasting with Julián. Beginning Oct. 21, Zugazagoitia and a curator will bring to life the finest works of each collection in the series.
Zugazagoitia was the unanimous choice of the nine-member trustee committee that searched earlier this year for the successor to Marc F. Wilson, the esteemed Director/CEO for 28 years who retired June 1.
“Julián is a man of many talents, a man of broad vision, one whom we believe will honor the accomplishments of others,” said Sarah F. Rowland, chair of the Nelson-Atkins Board of Trustees. “His energy has delighted all who have met him.”
Zugazagoitia has an international background: Born in Mexico City and educated in France, he speaks six languages and has worked at institutions in the Americas, Europe and Africa.
Julián Zugazagoitia (pronounced HOO-lian SZU-ga-sa-GOY-tee-ah) holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the Sorbonne Paris IV, with a focus on Aesthetics and Modernism in the arts. His work as a consultant, lecturer and curator has involved projects around the globe with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles. From 1999 to 2002, he served as Executive Assistant to the Director for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. During his tenure at El Museo del Barrio, a leading museum of Latino and Latin American art, Zugazagoitia led the institution through a $44 million capital campaign and a full renovation, which opened in 2009 to critical acclaim.
Zugazagoitia is married and has two children, ages 6 and 10.
The first director of the Nelson-Atkins was Paul Gardner (1933-1953), who was succeeded by Laurence Sickman (1953-1977), Ralph T. Coe (1977-1982), and then Marc Wilson.
Zugazagoitia’s international background includes the following highlights:
§ Born and raised in Mexico City, Zugazagoitia’s father was a mathematician and his mother is a stage and screen actress.
§ Graduated from L’Ecole du Louvre, with a major in modern and contemporary art and concentrations in Egyptology and Medieval art.
§ Educated at the Sorbonne Paris IV in France, earning a Ph.D. in Philosophy, with a focus on Aesthetics and Modernism. His dissertation was entitled The Total Work of Art as Horizon Modernity: Wagner, Mallarmé, Monet and Rodin
§ Lectured in art history at the Sornas School of Design, Paris.
§ Served as Cultural Attaché, Permanent Mexican Delegation to UNESCO, Paris.
§ Worked as a consultant with the Getty Conservation Institute, developing European and African projects while based in Paris and Rome, 1991-1999.
§ Served from 1997 to 1999 as Director of Visual Arts with the Spoleto Festival, Italy.
§ Served as Executive Assistant to the Director at the Solomon R. Guggeheim Museum in New York, organizing exhibitions and conferences, 1999 to 2002.
§ Awarded Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres Medal, French Ministry of Culture, 2003.
§ Served as a curator for the 25th Sao Paulo Biennale in Brazil in 2002 and the international art fair ARCO 2005.
§ Became Director/CEO in 2002 of El Museo del Barrio, where he repositioned the museum nationally and internationally as one of the foremost museums on Latin American and Caribbean art and developed major collaborations with such institutions as the Museum of Modern Art, the National Portrait Gallery and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
§ Currently serves as vice chair of the Cultural Institution Group, made up of New York City’s top 33 cultural institutions.
§ Currently serves as chair of the cultural committee for NYC & Company, the official marketing and tourism organization for the city.
§ Has served on the Board of the Association of Art Museum Directors since 2007.