AGO names Bri­ton to cu­ra­to­rial post

The Globe and Mail Metro (Ontario Edition) - - News - BRAD WHEELER

Ju­lian Cox ar­rives to the Art Gallery of On­tario with 25 years of ex­pe­ri­ence, though none of it in Canada

Af­ter a year-long va­cancy, the Art Gallery of On­tario has filled its top cu­ra­to­rial post. The Bri­tish-born Ju­lian Cox is to be the new chief cu­ra­tor, re­plac­ing Stephanie Smith, who left the gallery in Oc­to­ber, 2016, af­ter two years on the job.

“Ju­lian is join­ing us at a piv­otal mo­ment in the AGO’s his­tory,” said Stephan Jost, the AGO’s di­rec­tor and CEO. “We face ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties as our au­di­ences ex­pand and we con­tinue our evo­lu­tion into a 21st-cen­tury mu­seum.”

Op­por­tu­ni­ties are plenty at a gallery with a re­cent his­tory of hi­er­ar­chi­cal changeover. It was in 2016 that Mr. Jost, an Amer­i­can, re­placed Matthew Teit­el­baum, who served as di­rec­tor and CEO of the Toronto in­sti­tu­tion for 17 years.

Late last month, An­drew Hunter re­signed as the AGO’s cu­ra­tor of Cana­dian art; he pub­licly ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment with the gallery’s di­rec­tion and said he doubted the gallery’s top cu­ra­to­rial po­si­tion would be filled by a Cana­dian.

His sus­pi­cion proved to be prophetic. Mr. Cox, 51, ar­rives to the AGO with 25 years of mu­seum ex­pe­ri­ence, none of it in Canada. Most re­cently he served as the Fine Arts Mu­seum of San Fran­cisco’s chief cu­ra­tor, a re­spon­si­bil­ity he has held since 2010.

“Ev­ery­thing felt right about this move,” Mr. Cox told The Globe and Mail. “I was im­pressed with the head cu­ra­tors at the AGO, and it’s the right time in my pro­fes­sional life for fresh chal­lenges.”

Ed­u­cated at the Univer­sity Col­lege of Wales and the Univer­sity of Manch­ester, Mr. Cox’s spe­cialty is pho­tog­ra­phy. While work­ing at the J. Paul Getty Mu­seum in Los An­ge­les, he co-or­ga­nized ex­hi­bi­tions of Man Ray and Ju­lia Mar­garet Cameron at the AGO in the late 1990s.

“I have good col­le­gial ties at the gallery,” said Mr. Cox, a Lon­doner who, as a teenager, vis­ited On­tario on a rugby tour of the prov­ince.

In Toronto, Mr. Cox will join an art scene pop­u­lated by other re­cently ar­rived Brits. Ian De­jardin, the new di­rec­tor of the McMichael Cana­dian Art Col­lec­tion, was re­cruited from the Dul­wich Pic­ture Gallery, in South Lon­don. Novem­ber Payn­ter, ed­u­cated at the Royal Col­lege of Art in Lon­don, was named ear­lier this year as the di­rec­tor of pro­grams for Toronto’s Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art.

“The re­al­ity is that Cana­dian in­sti­tu­tions are com­pet­ing for global tal­ent,” Mr. Jost told the Globe. “My pri­or­ity for this hire was to find some­one with a depth of ex­pe­ri­ence in­ter­na­tion­ally, and also some­one who had a track record of man­ag­ing cu­ra­tors.”

Mr. Cox will head a cu­ra­to­rial team in tran­si­tion. Last week, the AGO split its Cana­dian art depart­ment in two. The Depart­ment of Cana­dian and In­dige­nous art is now headed by Wanda Nanibush (cu­ra­tor of In­dige­nous art) and Ge­or­giana Uhlyarik (cu­ra­tor of Cana­dian art).

“If you put Cana­dian and In­dige­nous to­gether and try to cre­ate this de­pic­tion that it’s a sin­gle cul­ture, there’s an in­her­ent ten­sion in it,” Mr. Jost said. “The cul­tures have in­ter­acted with each other for 700 years, but they’re dis­tinct cul­tures as well.”

In a pub­lished es­say, out­go­ing Cana­dian art cu­ra­tor Mr. Hunter wrote that he be­lieved some of the AGO cu­ra­to­rial staff lacked “true knowl­edge of this place.” Mr. Jost took ex­cep­tion to that view.

“If he thinks our peo­ple lack Cana­dian knowl­edge, I think it shows an ex­tra­or­di­nary ar­ro­gance on his part,” Mr. Jost said.

At the AGO, Mr. Cox will also be­come one of two deputy di­rec­tors. He is ex­pected to be­gin his ten­ure in Jan­uary, 2018, pend­ing ap­proval of au­tho­riza­tion to work in Canada.

Ju­lian Cox, set to be the AGO’s new chief cu­ra­tor, most re­cently served as the Fine Arts Mu­seum of San Fran­cisco’s chief cu­ra­tor, a re­spon­si­bil­ity he has held since 2010.

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