The New Museum on Manhattan’s Lower East Side has been championing the contemporary since its inception in 1977. We meet the team dedicated to bringing new artists to wider attention.
“There’s no red tape – that’s what I love about this place,” says Massimiliano Gioni, artistic director of the New Museum. Since 2007 it has been housed in one of lower Manhattan’s architectural gems: seven storeys of metal boxes designed by Tokyo architecture firm Sanaa. The museum, known for its daring and experimental approach to art (Carsten Höller once famously drilled through two of the museum’s floors to construct a slide), traces its beginnings back to 1977 when Marcia Tucker, a former curator at the Whitney, realised that contemporary art produced by living artists often clashed with the fusty rules of traditional museums. Thus the New Museum was founded, with its eyes turned to living artists that had yet to receive widespread exposure or critical acclaim.
Over the course of 41 years, the New Museum has maintained its outsider status, with risk-taking exhibitions often displaying artists who have never received an American museum show. While Gioni heads the museum’s curatorial team, the New Museum’s ethos is collaborative. “It can’t just be my own taste driving the choices,” he says. “It’s a continuous conversation with our team that’s also based on a sense of timing, urgency and need.”
Having no permanent physical collection, the New Museum is free to reinvent itself every three months. It is currently showing the first US retrospective of UK artist Sarah Lucas in a show called Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel. “Typically, museums feel like objects have been borrowed and put on display. But Sarah Lucas has been in control of the whole house,” says Gioni. “We’re more a site of production than a place where art is simply preserved or consecrated."
Edlis Neeson Artistic director
Massimiliano Gioni’s fascination with contemporary art began with Lucy Lippard’s 1966-published book Le Pop Art, which he discovered when he was 15. Gioni eventually found himself in New York City where, in 2002, he was part of the team that opened the Wrong Gallery. The tiny exhibition space housed in a doorway in the city’s Chelsea neighbourhood made headlines (works could only be viewed through a glass door) and exhibited the work of more than 40 international artists during its lifetime. A little over a decade later, Gioni became the youngest curator in the history of the Venice Biennale. Today, in conjunction with his post as Edlis Neeson artistic director (the Chicago-based art-collecting duo Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson are two of the museum’s largest benefactors), Gioni is also artistic director of the Nicola Trussardi Foundation, a Milan-based organisation dedicated to promoting contemporary art.
(Clockwise - standing to sitting, starting far left)
Maria Lostumbo Assistant registrar
Patrick Foran Chief preparator
“Patrick is in charge of the people who physically put on the show. ”
Natalie Bell Associate curator
Jessica Chin Director of retail operations
“Jessica is responsible for the bookshop. Besides my office and the galleries, it’s the space where I spend most of my time and where I draw a lot of inspiration for shows.”
Helga Christoffersen Associate curator
“Helga is very involved with curating emerging artists. Like our whole curatorial team, she’s particularly talented in bridging the more intellectual aspects of an exhibition with the practical elements.”
Stephen Nunes Production preparator
“Stephen is responsible for displaying the works, finding creative solutions and getting them in the house. We are a vertical building so while it might seem silly, there’s a lot of thinking that goes into how you get an artwork upstairs.”
Francesca Altamura Curatorial assistant
Margot Norton Curator
“While Margot works with me on selecting pieces, she’s also behind the story of the exhibition. She channels all information from me, the artist and everybody else into the show.”
Ian Sullivan Director of exhibitions management
“I worked with Ian on the Gwangju and Venice biennales. He basically supervises all components of how the works of art get here, through the door and installed. It’s more complicated than it sounds and can be very challenging.”
Kevin Kelly Audio visual preparator
“We do a lot of audio and video exhibitions and that requires a very specific knowledge of things like projectors and amplifiers. He works with us and the artist to present the video works at their best.”
Abby Lepold Registrar
“Abby supervises all the artwork that travels across the world to be here. Everything needs to be boxed and shipped, and each artwork comes with its own set of requirements. It’s a crucial job and Abby is in touch with hundreds of collectors, museums and lenders.”
Dave Singh Assistant security manager
“Dave is responsible for the guards and he’s also in charge of security. Security is aware of anything that comes in and out. In that sense, security is not just protecting the works but also a kind of diaphragm between the museum and the outside world.”
Carol Fassler Security officer
Gary Carrion-Murayari Kraus family curator
“Besides being a great curator, I always tease Gary that he’s our department of words. He’s a great writer so whenever we have to rely on text, that’s a speciality of his.”