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The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden just announced three new hires. Adam Budak, a curator from the Kunsthaus Graz am Landesmuseum Joanneum in Graz, Austria—an institution with a bubble even weirder than the Hirshhorn’s—will serve as the museum’s new curator of contemporary art. The museum also hired assistant curators Melissa Ho, an art historian from New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and Mika Yoshitake, a programmer with a good deal of West Coast institutional experience. You can find their resumes here.
The hires are welcome—and long overdue. Associate curator Kristen Hileman left the Hirshhorn in 2009 to head up the contemporary art department at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Her departure left a huge void in the D.C. gallery scene, where she was greatly loved for her enthusiastic participation in juries, panels, and artist talks. Few other curators from Federal City—the National Portrait Gallery’s Anne Goodyear being one of them—show the same spirit of volunteerism in D.C. I’ll put the question to Budak, Ho, and Yoshitake now—can any of y’all fill Hileman’s shoes?
The first job, of course, will be programming new content for the Smithsonian’s modern and contemporary museum. The Hirshhorn’s been without a curator of contemporary art since 2009, when Anne Ellegood took her talent to the University of California-Los Angeles’s Hammer Museum. With Hirshhorn director Richard Koshalek steering the museum toward ever-more high-profile and institutional expressions—”This is the beginning of 10 big things, and we’re going to land them here at the Hirshhorn like planes at LAX,” he told me in March—it’s been up to deputy director and chief curator Kerry Brougher to steer content, or so it seems.
The Yves Klein show that Brougher put together (with Dia Art Foundation director Philippe Vergne) is an example of the kind of nutritional programming that hasn’t quite been in abundance at the Hirshhorn in recent years. Another good example was the Anne Truitt retrospective from the year before, a Kristen Hileman joint.
It’ll be a minute before Budak steps into his first big show for the Hirshhorn. But there are other things that Budak and company can do in the meantime—other things that the city’s artists, curators, and viewers would no doubt appreciate—to live up to the work of some of their predecessors.