Holly Block, helped re­vi­tal­ize in­ter­na­tional pro­file of Bronx Mu­seum of Arts with vi­sion, de­ter­mi­na­tion

The Buffalo News - - OBITUARIES - Dec. 24, 1958 – Oct. 6. 2017 By Roberta Smith NEW YORK TIMES

NEW YORK – Holly Block, the di­rec­tor of the Bronx Mu­seum of the Arts and a long­time cul­tural force in New York, died Fri­day at her home in Man­hat­tan. She was 58.

Her part­ner, Dana Em­mott, said the cause was breast cancer.

As an arts ad­min­is­tra­tor Block moved just out­side the white-hot cen­ter of the New York art world, where the city’s al­ter­na­tive spa­ces and smaller mu­se­ums over­lap and cross-fer­til­ize and per­sonal de­ter­mi­na­tion and vi­sion can have a big im­pact.

Pos­sess­ing both qual­i­ties, Block trans­formed the two in­sti­tu­tions she served as di­rec­tor – Art in Gen­eral, an al­ter­na­tive space then in TriBeCa, and the Bronx Mu­seum – re­shap­ing and ex­pand­ing their lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional pro­files.

Her con­vic­tions about the im­por­tance of di­ver­sity, in­clu­sive­ness and com­mu­nity outreach, and about the global na­ture of con­tem­po­rary art, were ahead of their time.

At the Bronx Mu­seum, on the Grand Con­course near East 165th Street, Block’s achieve­ments in­cluded lift­ing all ad­mis­sion fees in 2012 and in­creas­ing an­nual at­ten­dance to 100,000 vis­i­tors from 25,000. At the same time, this rel­a­tively small mu­seum spon­sored the ex­hi­bi­tion that rep­re­sented the United States at the Venice Bi­en­nale in 2013.

The fea­tured artist for the ex­hi­bi­tion was Sarah Sze, whose in­tri­cate in­stal­la­tion, made from ev­ery­day ob­jects and ma­te­ri­als, filled the Amer­i­can pavil­ion.

Block and Carey Lovelace, a critic and in­de­pen­dent cu­ra­tor, had pro­posed Sze to the State Depart­ment and or­ga­nized the ex­hi­bi­tion.

Tom Finkel­pearl, com­mis­sioner of the New York City Depart­ment of Cul­tural Af­fairs, wrote in an email that Block’s death “will not di­min­ish the le­gacy of her cre­ative, vi­brant and ef­fec­tive lead­er­ship in New York’s cul­tural com­mu­nity.”

Block was born Dec. 24, 1958, in Prince­ton, N.J. Ar­riv­ing on Christ­mas Eve, she was named for the hol­i­day’s tra­di­tional green­ery. Her fa­ther, A. Har­vey Block, was an ex­per­i­men­tal psy­chol­o­gist; her mother, the for­mer Cielle Fink, was as­sis­tant dean of the school of higher ed­u­ca­tion at the Catholic Univer­sity of Amer­ica in Wash­ing­ton.

Block grad­u­ated from Ge­orge­town Day School in Wash­ing­ton and at­tended Ben­ning­ton Col­lege in Ver­mont, earn­ing a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in pho­tog­ra­phy and sculp­ture in 1980. She briefly stud­ied pho­tog­ra­phy at the San Fran­cisco Art In­sti­tute.

Block re­turned to Wash­ing­ton in 1981 and worked at a com­mer­cial gallery there or­ga­niz­ing ex­hi­bi­tions. She then spent three years at the Wash­ing­ton Project for the Arts, a non­profit al­ter­na­tive space, first as of­fice man­ager and then as pro­grams co­or­di­na­tor.

She joined the Bronx Mu­seum in 1985, be­com­ing cu­ra­tor of off-site gal­leries and start­ing a mu­seum pro­gram to make art more ac­ces­si­ble to the pub­lic.

In ad­di­tion to Em­mott, she is sur­vived by her brother, Eben; her step­mother, Mar­garet Al­mazan; and her half brother, Charles Block-Al­mazan.

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